Believe It or Not, Trade Policy Has Everything To Do With Climate!
(Which is why 350 Seattle is working to stop Trump’s new NAFTA, or NAFTA 2.0)
In November, the US, Canada, and Mexico signed the United States Mexico Canada Agreement or USMCA. In spite of its new name, it fails to fully address the failures of the old NAFTA; hence we call it NAFTA 2.0. Most likely, Congress will be voting on NAFTA in the spring of 2019 and we are telling Congress to vote no!
This is because the deal would encourage further outsourcing of pollution and jobs, offer special handouts to notorious corporate polluters, lock in fossil fuel dependency, and—due to an egregious regulatory chapter—prolong Trump’s polluting legacy for years after he has left office.
Some specific areas of concern:
- The Deal makes progress on ISDS but offers a dangerous handout to oil and gas companies: Although the deal partially removes the overreaching corporate rights in NAFTA’s “investor-state dispute settlement” (ISDS) system, it creates a special ISDS system for notorious corporate polluters in the oil and gas industry. As noted by the Sierra Club, “that means that Chevron and ExxonMobil—the two largest corporate climate polluters in history and repeat users of ISDS—would be allowed to challenge environmental protections in Mexico by relying on the same broad corporate rights that they have used to successfully challenge public interest policies from Ecuador to Canada.”
- The Deal guarantees corporate polluters another way to weaken environmental policies: The deal’s pro-corporate regulatory chapter, which has not received a lot of attention, includes a myriad of provisions that could force NAFTA countries to “harmonize” their regulations — which could lead to the weakening of US regulations to match up with whichever country has the least stringent regulations. In addition, It could further tie the hands of regulators by allowing corporations significant involvement (more than they have now) in the drafting of regulations necessary to protect the public from fossil fuel pollution, dangerous chemicals, and unsafe food. Specifically, the binding rules — not found in any prior U.S. trade agreement — offer corporations opportunities to challenge proposed regulations before they are finalized, and to ask that existing regulations be “repealed.” These deregulatory rules could make it harder to reverse the Trump administration’s environmental rollbacks once Trump leaves office, which could extend his polluting legacy for years.
- The Deal Supports further outsourcing of toxic pollution and jobs: Because the deal lacks enforceable environmental standards, it encourages more corporations to evade U.S. environmental policies by shifting jobs and toxic pollution to Mexico, where many environmental policies are weaker. For example, after the US increased standards for lead air pollution in 2009, many battery recycling corporations moved their operations to Mexico. This has contributed to job loss in the U.S. and toxic lead poisoning in border communities.
- The Deal could hinder implementation of the Green New Deal: 350 Seattle has been working closely with the Sunrise Movement to push for a Green New Deal—a movement that is gaining momentum. Yet, Trump’s NAFTA contains provisions that could be used to challenge Green New Deal programs. For example, “Buy Green” policies and local government programs that support local green infrastructure projects could be directly and straightforwardly challenged as trade law violations. Other Green New Deal policies that could fall afoul of status quo trade rules include green subsidies or infrastructure spending that are seen as benefiting domestic firms over foreign competitors, whether by design or incidentally.
*Note that as we work to stop Trump’s NAFTA, we tie our work in with labor and immigrant rights concerns as well; we’re all in this together!
How to help stop NAFTA 2.0:
Email Selden Prentice to learn more about current projects and to get on our listserv.
Also, contact your Congressional Representatives and Senators to ask that they vote no on NAFTA unless Trump renegotiates the deal to address the environmental concerns listed above. Find your Congressional representative here.