Maintaining Secretive Process With 500 Official Corporate Advisers Does Not Bode Well
Late last week, the Trump administration sent the formal notification to Congress to start renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). As widely reported in the press, the tone of that notice did not reflect the “NAFTA was a disaster” rhetoric of candidate Donald Trump.
While candidate Trump promised to make NAFTA “much better” for working people, the official notice was markedly vague and framed the talks as “updating” NAFTA. And, a more detailed Trump NAFTA renegotiation plan that leaked in late March described just what the corporate lobby is demanding: using NAFTA talks to revive parts of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), like expanded investor incentives to offshore jobs that could make NAFTA even worse for working people.
The obvious measure of whether NAFTA renegotiation is intended to benefit working people is if Trump makes clear he will eliminate NAFTA’s special investor rights that make it easier to offshore American jobs and attack our laws before tribunals of three corporate lawyers who can award the firms unlimited sums of taxpayer money. No pact that includes the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) regime – which provides multinational corporations expansive new rights and the power to privately enforce them against governments – is good for working people, or the planet.
Indeed, if corporate elites are allowed to dictate how NAFTA is renegotiated, the agreement could become more damaging for working families and the environment in the three countries. The leaked NAFTA plan from March not only failed to eliminate ISDS, but called for its expansion.
Even if ISDS is not expanded, modest tweaks of the existing NAFTA provisions will not stop NAFTA’s ongoing damage, much less deliver on Trump’s promises for a deal that will create American jobs and raise wages. Over the next few weeks, Public Citizen will release a series of briefing papers that present the most up to date information on NAFTA’s outcomes.
Worryingly, already the 500 corporate trade advisers who got us into the TPP have been consulted on NAFTA renegotiations. But the few labor advisers included in that system were shut out of that March meeting. And the public and Congress are being left in the dark about negotiating plans and goals.
If Trump won’t make negotiations transparent – by issuing detailed goals and making draft texts available – how can the public know that the deal is not being shaped to benefit Trump’s many Canadian and Mexican investments, or that the Goldman Sachs team in the White House isn’t turning NAFTA into TPP 2.0?
Trump’s conflicts of interest and self-dealing opportunities with NAFTA renegotiation are not hypothetical; the sprawling Trump business empire has 14 Canadian and two Mexican investments. Some of Trump’s clothing line is made in Mexico. Trump won’t divest his business holdings or release his tax returns, so unless he reveals his full Mexican and Canadian business dealings, we won’t even know in whose interest these NAFTA talks are being conducted.
The launch of NAFTA renegotiation comes in the context of Trump’s broken promises on trade piling up.
Instead of punishing firms that offshore American jobs, he has awarded United Technologies 15 lucrative new government contracts even after they proceeded to offshore 1,200 of their 2,000 Indiana Carrier jobs.
Instead of enacting the promised “get tough on China” trade policy, he flip-flopped on his pledge to declare China a currency manipulator on Day One and has done nothing to counter our massive $347 billion China trade deficit.
Under the Fast Track procedure, our next official glimpse into Trump’s intentions will come in 60 days, when a detailed outline of negotiating plans must be published. Negotiations can start 30 days after that, as soon as August 16.