Washington, D.C. – Today, at the close of the public comment period for the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Communications Workers of America (CWA) released details about related comments they submitted to United States Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer. In a letter from CWA President Chris Shelton, as well as in comments submitted by hundreds of CWA members and activists across the country, CWA emphasized that NAFTA’s renegotiation must put working families first.See below for key excerpts from both President Shelton’s letter and CWA members and activists’ submitted comments.
According to Chris Shelton, President of CWA, “NAFTA does not need to be simply tweaked or updated. NAFTA, and our approach to trade policy in general, needs to be fundamentally overhauled to actually benefit working families. It would be a wasted opportunity and deeply destructive to turn NAFTA into a version of TPP for the U.S., Mexico and Canada. Instead, we must replace this deal written by and for multinational corporations with an agreement that is designed to live up our values, create jobs, and raise wages for working men and women across North America.”
CWA’s comments submitted to USTR Lighthizer focused on the following issues to incorporate into the renegotiated agreement:
- Removal of ISDS from investment chapter: Noting that “any renegotiated NAFTA that includes ISDS will remain an anti-worker agreement,” the undemocratic Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) process should not be a part of any renegotiated agreement. ISDS undermines the rule of law by providing a separate legal system that is only accessible to foreign investors.
- Strong labor standards, including a right for cross-border collective bargaining: Any renegotiated NAFTA must include strong labor standards, broad coverage of workers, and new enforcement tools in order to benefit workers throughout North America. A new NAFTA must ensure adoption of the eight International Labor Organization fundamental conventions by all parties; penalties on goods that are produced using sub-living wage labor and remit the proceeds of those penalties to the underpaid workers; and a right for workers to collectively bargain across borders throughout the NAFTA region; in so doing, this standard would help implement a race-to-the-top to replace NAFTA’s existing race-to-the-bottom in terms of wages and standards.
- Service and digital trade provisions must recognize the importance of call centers: A renegotiated NAFTA should not include any provisions on data localization that would inhibit our ability to enact initiatives to keep crucial call center jobs in the U.S, such as H.R. 1300/S. 515, “The United States Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act.” Instead, related provisions must strengthen data security and privacy protections across North America.
- Strong opposition to provisions that would undermine “Buy American” and domestic procurement preferences: A new NAFTA should not harm efforts to expand Buy American laws and other policies surrounding domestic procurement preferences. In particular, a renegotiated NAFTA should not impose obligations on state and local governments that would undermine Buy Local efforts.
- Strengthening “rules of origin” and closing related loopholes, such as “deeming”: Failure to strengthen rules of origin provisions, especially for autos, or to continue permitting the use of loopholes like deeming (in which parts altered in the NAFTA region are treated as originating entirely in the NAFTA region for purposes of calculating the Auto Regional Value Content) would undermine efforts to raise wages and standards in the NAFTA region.
- Including meaningful and enforceable environmental protections: NAFTA must be amended to include meaningful, enforceable environmental protections to help level the playing field for American workers. These provisions must require countries to adopt, maintain and implement policies to fulfill commitments under the seven multilateral environmental agreements referenced in the so-called “May 10th Agreement,” and must also ensure that countries are responsive to modern environmental challenges.
- Intellectual property – relax monopoly protections for prescription drugs that keep drug prices unnecessarily high: NAFTA’s existing monopoly protections for prescription drugs keep drug prices unnecessarily high for consumers and government purchasers. These high costs not only directly harm sick patients, they result in higher costs for governments in terms of programs like Medicare and Medicaid, as well as higher costs for any participants in health plans that cover those drugs. The result is not just poor health outcomes, but also lost jobs for public sector workers including nurses and social workers.
- Enforceable currency manipulation: Including enforceable, effective disciplines against currency manipulation in NAFTA would create a real deterrent effect against currency manipulation and would provide much stronger remedies in situations where countries manipulate the value of their currencies to advantage their exports over American exports.
In addition to President Shelton’s letter, which went into greater detail on the above key points, CWA members and activists from across America also submitted comments. We excerpt several of these comments below:
- Peter in Pennsylvania: “NAFTA has been a disaster for working people. [A renegotiated] NAFTA must raise wages, create high-quality jobs and invest in our people and infrastructure. NAFTA must remove its corporate privileges and focus instead on creating an inclusive, sustainable economy that puts people and the planet ahead of profits.”
- Sarah in Massachusetts: “NAFTA must remove its corporate privileges and focus instead on creating an inclusive, sustainable economy that puts people and the planet ahead of profits.”
- Chuck in Virginia: “Trade agreements should not disadvantage workers in the United States. I have witnessed the loss of numerous jobs around Southwest and Central Virginia due to outsourcing of manufacturing work. NAFTA must eliminate incentives that corporations now have to send jobs offshore. We need good middle class jobs to stay in America.”
- Greg in Maine: “Any renegotiation of NAFTA should be centered around redesigning it to protect and support workers, the environment, and people. Voters have made it clear that they are tired of trade deals that benefit corporations at the expense of everyone else.”
- Bill in Texas: “From the beginning, NAFTA favored large multinationals at the expense of working people in North America, and even national sovereignty. Any re-negotiation of NAFTA must put working families first, and must not undermine local or national labor, safety or environmental regulations.”
- Greta in Pennsylvania: “A renegotiated NAFTA must help working Americans. It must support jobs and therefore stronger communities. Corporate money must stay in America. This is what our President promised. This deal must live up to these promises.”