Finally, Trade We Can Support

We know that NAFTA-style "free trade" has been bad for workers, the environment, and human rights. But if we're against NAFTA, what are we for? Enter the TRADE Act. This bill, introduced last year, names unequivocal economic justice, human rights, labor, and environmental standards by which NAFTA and CAFTA must be renegotiated, and to which any future trade agreements must conform.  (See details below.)  If passed, the Act would launch a new, more just era of U.S. trade. 
Thanks to thousands of Congressional visits, letters, and calls from people like you, the TRADE Act was introduced in the House in 2009 with a goal-topping 106 original cosponsors.  That number has now grown to over 147 cosponsors, including a majority of House Democrats.  To make this just trade model a reality, we need to gain some more House cosponsors while also working to get our Senators on board.  To do so, please either call or email your representatives: 
1.  Call your representatives.  Calls are generally more effective than emails.  Just enter your zip code below and the numbers for your representatives will appear.  Upon calling, identify yourself as a constituent and ask for the trade staffer (if not there, ask for her/his voicemail).  Simply ask the staffer to co-sponsor the TRADE Act (HR 3012 in the House and S 2821 in the Senate) as a  forward-thinking alternative to the discredited NAFTA trade model.  Feel free to add your own reasons or choose from the talking points below
2.  Email your representatives.  Simply send a prepared email below by entering your zip code, making any edits you wish, adding your information, and hitting send.  It will automatically go to your House and Senate representatives.  (If your representative has already sponsored the TRADE Act, the prepared message will be a thank-you email.)

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TRADE Act Talking Points

See our statement of support for the TRADE Act

Request: Please cosponsor the TRADE Act (HR 3012 in the House, S 2821 in the Senate).  To do so, House representatives can contact Nora Todd in Rep. Michaud’s office:  Senators can contact Chris Slevin in Sen. Brown’s office:
Overall message:  The TRADE Act charts a forward-thinking alternative to the discredited NAFTA model, mapping out the sort of trade that would create rather than erase jobs, both here and abroad.  That’s why so many across the U.S. and in Congress have already endorsed the TRADE Act. 

  • Constituents and supporters widely endorse the TRADE Act. 
    • --A diverse array of major civil society groups back the TRADE Act.  Unions supporting the TRADE Act include the AFL-CIO, Change to Win, Teamsters, Steelworkers, Electrical Workers, and many others.  Other key supporters include environmental groups like the Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth, farmers’ organizations like the National Family Farm Coalition and National Farmers Union, faith-based coalitions like the Interfaith Working Group on Trade and Investment, trade-focused groups like the Citizens Trade Campaign and Global Trade Watch, and Latin America-focused organizations like Witness for Peace
    • --Polls show popular support for overhauling the NAFTA trade model.  A 2008 CNN poll found that 51% of the U.S. considers NAFTA-style trade deals to be bad for the U.S., while a 2007 Wall Street Journal poll revealed that 59% of Republicans feel the same way.  Just this past December (2009), a Pew Center report confirmed that 53% of the U.S. says NAFTA-style trade has eroded U.S. jobs. 
  • Congress increasingly supports the TRADE Act. 
  • The TRADE Act would protect jobs and improve working conditions, both here and abroad.
    • --The Act would reverse NAFTA’s legacy of encouraging businesses here to close their doors and relocate to countries with cheaper labor.  By requiring enforcement of core labor standards in trade partner countries, the TRADE Act removes an incentive for offshoring
    • --The Act would also reverse NAFTA’s legacy of job loss abroad.  When NAFTA pushed highly-subsidized U.S. agribusiness and small-scale Mexican farmers into asymmetrical competition, 2 million Mexican agricultural workers lost their jobs.  The TRADE Act allows countries to act against such agricultural dumping, helping farmers to regain their livelihoods. 
    • --Beyond the quantity of jobs, the TRADE Act would also improve job quality.  By reducing offshoring, the Act will ease the downward pressure on wages that NAFTA has brought to U.S. workers forced to accept pay cuts under threat of factory closure.   Meanwhile, by requiring enforcement of labor standards in all trade partner countries, the Act would assist Latin American workers organizing to end ongoing labor rights abuses. 
  • The TRADE Act would reduce forced migration.
    • --NAFTA provoked a sharp upswing in forced migration from Mexico to the U.S.  By decimating Mexico’s agricultural economy (see above), NAFTA left millions of Mexicans with few alternatives to migration as a means of survival.  The annual rate of migration from Mexico to the U.S. more than doubled in the decade following NAFTA. 
    • --The TRADE Act is a necessary accompaniment to immigration reform.  To seriously address immigration, we need to ensure that U.S. trade deals stop obligating Latin Americans to leave their communities in the first place.  By allowing countries like Mexico to take measures against agricultural dumping, the TRADE Act supports rather than displaces small-scale farmers, allowing those who wish to stay in their communities to do so. 
  • The TRADE Act would bolster environmental protections.
    • --The Act requires enforcement of environmental standards in the U.S. and trade partner countries.  In so doing, the Act provides a legal tool for those seeking to end ongoing environmental degradation
    • --The Act would eliminate the notorious investor-state dispute resolution mechanism that allows corporations to sue governments for enforcing environmental laws.  Encoded in NAFTA’s Chapter 11, this mechanism has allowed corporations to sue governments for “lost profits” over laws against carcinogenic gasoline additives, toxic dumping, and deforestation.  Governments have often lost these cases, paying hundreds of millions of dollars to foreign corporations for the crime of enforcing environmental laws. 
  • The TRADE Act would increase access to water, health care, and other basic services. 
    • --The Act would reform the intellectual property provisions of the NAFTA model that have tended to eliminate generic medicines, thereby increasing the cost of health care. 
    • --The Act would eliminate any trade-linked requirements to privatize essential services like water and education.  In so doing, the Act allows for governmental programs to make such services accessible. 
  • The TRADE Act would herald a more democratic trade model.
    • --By eliminating the investor-state dispute mechanism of NAFTA’s Chapter 11 (see above), the Act would no longer allow unelected corporate heads to go before unelected tribunals and sue democratically-elected governments for enforcing democratically-passed laws.  
    • --The Act would overhaul the undemocratic Fast Track process.  Fast Track restricted Congressional debate and amendments on trade agreements.  In its place, the Act prescribes a process that would bolster Congressional oversight of any future trade agreements. 



TRADE Act Background

The TRADE Act, if passed, would take four major steps toward a more just U.S. trade model:

  1. Evaluate existing FTAs.  The Act would require a public report assessing NAFTA and CAFTA’s impacts on signatory countries’ employment and wage levels, access to health care and water, cost of essential medicines, and compliance with labor and environmental standards, among other criteria.
  2. Renegotiate existing FTAs.  The text of NAFTA and CAFTA would have to be transformed so as to meet explicitly outlined requirements.  Among other changes, the renegotiated FTAs would have to:
    --Allow all signatory governments to take measures against agricultural dumping so as to ensure income stability for small-scale farmers
    --Require signatory governments to actually enforce core labor, environmental, and human rights standards
    --Revamp any intellectual property provisions that tend to increase the cost of essential medicines in signatory countries
    --Delete all requirements to privatize or deregulate key services such as health care, education, or water
    --Eliminate the investor-state dispute resolution process in which corporations can sue governments for laws construed as barriers to trade (i.e. NAFTA’s Chapter 11)
  3. Impose a moratorium on future FTAs.  The Act would require that the President submit to Congress a plan to renegotiate existing FTAs at least three months before the negotiation or implementation of any new FTA.  This prerequisite of renegotiation spells an effective moratorium on further FTAs. 
  4. Abolish Fast Track.  The Act would discard the anti-democratic Fast Track provisions that currently restrict Congressional debate and amendments on trade agreements.  In its place, the Act prescribes a more democratic process that would bolster Congressional oversight of any future trade agreements.