The labor movement says good riddance to that flawed trade deal. But this is not a time to rest on our laurels, writes AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka
On Monday, it became official. The United States withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. In the end, President Trumps executive order was a formality. The TPP simply did not have the votes to pass Congress. This was the result of years of activism by working people and our allies to expose this flawed deal for what it truly is: a ceding of power from citizens to global corporations.
Make no mistake, we dodged a bullet. The TPP was massive in size and scope. It wouldve led to a new wave of outsourcing, stifled wages and made life-saving medicines more expensive. Despite claims to the contrary, the TPP wouldve emboldened China, allowing Beijing to benefit from the agreement without changing the abusive currency, labor and subsidy practices that have disadvantaged family farmers, small businesses and working people alike.
The TPP would have also given multinational corporations special rights, taken a sledgehammer to American manufacturing and extended trade benefits to nations where LGBTQ people can be jailed or executed for who they are.
Today we breathe a sigh of relief and say good riddance to the TPP. But this is not a time to rest on our laurels.
The American people were divided in their choice for president in 2016. But one clear mandate emerged: there is strong, broad-based support for a new direction on trade. And when it comes to bad trade deals, none has a longer record of failure than North American Free Trade Agreement.
The consequences we warned of two decades ago when Nafta was first being debated have all come true. Americas industrial base has been gutted. Jobs have vanished. Employers have held wages down. Entire communities have lost their identity.
I see the wreckage of Nafta as I travel the country, in shuttered factories and rusted-out schools, in desolate town squares and abandoned homes. Sadly, Nafta has wreaked havoc on both sides of the border. In Mexico, small farmers have been pushed off their land, workers have been abused and the wage gap with the United States has actually grown. In every way imaginable, Nafta is a political failure and a policy disaster. We are ready to fix it.
For too long, politicians in both parties have paid lip service to repealing or renegotiating Nafta, but our trade policies have continued to move us in the wrong direction, giving more power to corporations at the expense of working people. Were tired of waiting. Along with our affiliates and allies, the AFL-CIO is busy crafting exactly what a renegotiated Nafta would look like. But there is consensus on a broad set of principles.
First, we must eliminate Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), the private justice system for foreign investors that prioritizes profits over people. Secondly, we must improve Naftas labor and environmental provisions, move them from side agreements into the core text and ensure they are enforced. Finally, we must address currency manipulation, protect domestic auto manufacturers, strengthen Buy America laws and bolster trade enforcement. Above all, every single chapter of Nafta should be improved to help working families.
How we proceed is critically important. Any renegotiation that ignores these key principles is a move to further rig Nafta, leaving our economy and democracy even more vulnerable. We simply will not allow the reopening of existing trade deals to be used as an excuse to further tilt the rules in favor of big corporations.
President Trump promised throughout his campaign to make life better for American workers. Some of his early actions from nominating a labor secretary who routinely violates labor law to unfairly attacking federal employees and immigrants are a stark departure from that rhetoric. Trade has to be different.
The TPP is dead because courageous Americans organized and mobilized to kill it. Nafta is a much steeper hill to climb. Working people are hungry for a new way forward on trade. We are ready for trade deals that create jobs, raise wages, breathe life into our communities, expand the American Dream and lift up workers around the world. That starts with rewriting Nafta work that must begin today.