This has been a National Day of Action for critics of the North American Free Trade Agreement or NAFTA. The critics, which include federal representatives from the region, want the current closed door renegotiations of the trade pact between the U.S., Canada and Mexico to be opened and are calling for labor-friendly provisions.
Organizations opposed to NAFTA urged Americans to tweet and call their Congressional representatives today to demand that NAFTA renegotiations eliminate outsourcing and add strong labor provisions and environmental standards. Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders voted against the free trade agreement between Canada, Mexico and the U.S, which has been in effect since 1994. He says any re-negotiation must benefit the working class. “The negotiations on NAFTA are taking place behind closed doors. Our demand: open the doors. Let working people in. The renegotiation of NAFTA must be done in the open. It must include strong and enforceable labor and environmental standards. It must stop providing incentives for corporations to outsource American jobs to Mexico where workers there are paid in some cases $2 an hour. It needs to eliminate NAFTA rules that undermine our Buy American and Buy Local laws. It must end the disastrous investor state that undermines democracy and allows multi-national corporations to put corporate profits ahead of workers, the environment, public health and food safety.”
Another longtime critic of NAFTA, Connecticut Democratic Congresswoman Rosa Delauro, also decried the closed door renegotiations. “NAFTA has directly contributed to the outsourcing of about one million good paying American jobs. While employees suffer NAFTA enables large corporations to outsource more and more. We have a moral obligation to level that playing field for the middle class. We are for trade. But if we allow corporations to drive that NAFTA renegotiation in a closed door process then the deal will be even worse than what we experienced all those years ago.”
Former Northern New York Congressman Bill Owens is now a consultant on cross border trade between the U.S. and Canada. The Democrat says there has been an erosion of manufacturing in the U.S. particularly in low-end products requiring little technical skill to produce. But he adds it’s not due to the trade agreement. “NAFTA really has had nothing to do with that or it has had very, very little impact. Most of those manufacturing jobs went to Southeast Asia. Some did go to Mexico. However there has been offsetting increases in employment in NAFTA related activities. For instance we’ve had increased transportation, meaning trucking, some rail. We’ve had the growth of industries in the United States as a result of NAFTA. We’re creating manufacturing activity in both Canada and the United States. And the third area that I think is very important is much of the manufacturing sector has seen a huge increase in automation in particular the use of robots.”
The fifth round of NAFTA talks were held in Mexico City in November. Negotiators will reconvene in Montreal from January 23 to the 28th.
Audio from the NAFTA Day of Action is courtesy of Public Citizen.