Tag Archives: NAFTA

In NAFTA Talks, Canada Demands US Drop Anti-Union ‘Right to Work’ Laws

Right to work laws are “a sledgehammer that dilutes worker organization and bargaining, paving the way for lower wages and a host of labor violations”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 9-4-2017

“A total of 28 states, including three this year, have passed right-to-work legislation,” writes Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project. (Photo: Together We Will SJ‏/Twitter)

Canada has demanded that the United States eliminate anti-union “right-to-work” laws as part of ongoing NAFTA negotiations, the Canadian Globe and Mail reported.

One group of negotiators spent all day Sunday working on the labor file,” The Globe and Mail noted. “One source familiar with the discussions said Canada wants the United States to pass a federal law stopping state governments from enacting right-to-work legislation; the source said the United States has not agreed to such a request.”

In addition, Canadian negotiators are reportedly pressuring both the United States and Mexico “to offer a year of paid family leave, as Canada does.” Continue reading

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Calling Corporate-Backed Deals an “Indisputable” Good, Obama Makes Pitch for TTIP

Sitting next to Chancellor Angela Merkel during a summit in Germany, U.S. president continued to ignore opponents as he defended controversial agreement with European nations

By Jon Queally, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 4-24-2016

Photo: droppants

Photo: droppants

Despite the tens of thousands of people who marched against the deal in Germany ahead of his arrival and the steady drop in support for such neoliberal trade deals overall, President Barack Obama stood next to Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday and defended the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and said similar past deals have been an “indisputable” benefit to the U.S. economy.

“It is indisputable that [“free trade”] has made our economy stronger,” Obama said during a joint news conference. “It has made sure that our businesses are the most competitive in the world.” Continue reading

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The Pipeline Strikes Back: the audacity of TransCanada’s $15b suit against the U.S.

The political saga of the Keystone XL pipeline is like a real-life version of The Force Awakens. So why are we giving the Dark Side even more power?

By Jim Shultz. Published 2-5-16 by openDemocracy

The Empire Strikes Back. Credit: starwars.wikia.com.

The Empire Strikes Back. Credit: starwars.wikia.com.

In case you didn’t notice, the new blockbuster Star Wars film, The Force Awakens, ends pretty much the same way the first one did when it came out in the summer of 1977. The bad guys build a Death Star machine that can kill whole planets, the good guys fight back with pluck and grit, and, just in the nick of time, destroy the machine.

The political saga of the Keystone XL pipeline has followed essentially the same plot. TransCanada (playing the role of the Empire) sought to build a metal tunnel from Alberta to the Gulf Coast to transport oil from the Canadian tar sands. The pipeline, not unlike a Death Star, threatened the planet because it would have amped up carbon emissions and quickened the pace of global climate change. In the Keystone saga, pluck and grit came in the form of protests, lawsuits, arrests, and the encirclement of the White House—the equivalent of a Jedi counter-attack. Continue reading

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This WTO Ruling Is Perfect Example of How Big Trade Deals Trump Democracy

NAFTA partners can sue the U.S. for a combined $1 billion annually in retaliatory tariffs over Country of Origin Labels for meat

Written by Lauren McCauley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 12-7-2015.

Republican lawmakers and meat industry lobbyists, now bolstered by the WTO ruling, are working to overturn meat labeling provision that 92 percent of public supports. (Photo: Jason Tester Guerilla Futures/cc/flickr)

Republican lawmakers and meat industry lobbyists, now bolstered by the WTO ruling, are working to overturn meat labeling provision that 92 percent of public supports. (Photo: Jason Tester Guerilla Futures/cc/flickr)

In a move that watchdogs say presents a “glaring example of how trade agreements can undermine public interest policies,” the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled on Monday that the U.S. can be forced to pay $1 billion annually by NAFTA partners for its establishment of food safety laws.

In its decision, the WTO authorized $781 million from Canada and $227 million from Mexico in annual retaliation tariffs over the U.S. law requiring Country of Original Labels (COOL) for certain packaged meats, which food safety and consumer groups say is essential for consumer choice and animal welfare, as well as environmental and public health.

The United States’ North American trading partners argued that being forced to label where animals were born, raised, and slaughtered placed an undue burden on livestock producers and processors and, as AgriPulse reports, “ultimately persuaded the WTO that the law accorded unfavorable treatment to Canadian and Mexican livestock.”

Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, said on Monday that the ruling “makes clear that trade agreements can—and do—threaten even the most favored U.S. consumer protections.”

Citing a May 2015 speech during which U.S. President Barack Obama brushed aside warnings that agreements like NAFTA and the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) could undermine important regulations, Wallach continued: “We hope that President Obama stands by his claim that ‘no trade agreement is going to force us to change our laws,’ but in fact rolling back U.S. consumer and environmental safeguards has been exactly what past presidents have done after previous retrograde trade pact rulings.”

The ruling comes just two weeks after the WTO also ruled that U.S. “dolphin-safe” tuna labeling poses a “technical barrier to trade” that must be eliminated or weakened.

Consumer advocates say that rulings provide a stark warning as Obama attempts to rally congressional support for the 12-nation TPP, which critics warn also compromises food safety by, among other things, limiting inspections on imported foods.

The Republican-led House of Representatives last spring already passed a measure repealing the meat label provision—despite the fact that 92 percent of Americans support the policy.

Now, with the WTO ruling bolstering their case, meat industry lobby groups, including the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, are pushing the rest of Congress to follow suit.

According to AgriPulse, “Sources have indicated that a repeal provision may be attached to either the omnibus spending bill expected to be debated this week or a customs enforcement bill also expected to be considered before Congress is scheduled to adjourn for the year next week.”

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Sensing Keystone XL Rejection, TransCanada Scopes NAFTA Lawsuit

Provisions in trade pact may provide legal basis for suing U.S. over tar sands pipeline

Written by Nadia Prupis, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 8-10-15.

A tar sands site in Alberta, Canada. (Photo: kris krüg/flickr/cc)

A tar sands site in Alberta, Canada. (Photo: kris krüg/flickr/cc)

TransCanada Corporation, the company behind the controversial Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, is furtively planning its next steps—including suing the U.S. government—if U.S. President Barack Obama rejects the permits which would allow construction of the project to move forward, the Canadian Press reported on Monday.

While the company has publicly maintained hope that Obama will grant it permission to build the pipeline, those close to the project say TransCanada expects a rejection and is quietly considering suing the government under the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), using articles in the pact that protect companies from discrimination, unfair or arbitrary treatment, and expropriation.

NAFTA also includes a mechanism known as the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), which allows corporations to sue a country for damages based on projected “lost profits” and “expected future profits.” As Common Dreams has previously reported, there are no monetary caps to the potential award.

Experts have warned that TransCanada could bring a NAFTA challenge over Keystone XL. Natural Resources Defense Council international program director Jake Schmidt told Politico in February that such a case was “definitely a possibility.”

Derek Burney, former Canadian ambassador to the U.S. and chief negotiator on the trade deal, as well as its U.S.-Canada predecessor, told Politico at the time, “If the pipeline is actually vetoed on so-called environmental grounds, I think there is a very strong case for a NAFTA challenge.”

But would suing the government under NAFTA work? It’s unlikely.

The Canadian Press continues:

The U.S. government has a 13-0 record in NAFTA cases. A suit would likely fail, cost the company a few million dollars, and possibly antagonize the U.S. government, said David Gantz, who was been a panelist on NAFTA cases and who teaches trade law at the University of Arizona.

….But another expert said the company might as well try. She said a recent decision against the Canadian government in the Bilcon case involving a Nova Scotia quarry could give TransCanada some hope.

“Why not? And see where it goes,” said Debra Steger[.]

Another option on TransCanada’s radar is immediately filing another permit application with the U.S. State Department ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

Opponents of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a corporate-friendly agreement between the U.S. and 12 Pacific Rim nations which has been described as “NAFTA on steroids,” have cautioned against including an ISDS mechanism in the still-pending deal.

“Given NAFTA’s record of damage, it is equal parts disgusting and infuriating that now President Barack Obama has joined the corporate Pinocchios who lied about NAFTA in recycling similar claims to try to sell the [TPP],” Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, said in February.

Whenever the announcement comes, the source on the project told the Canadian Press, TransCanada will “let it cool for a while. And then we’d have this more vigorous discussion.”

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Who Are They Supposed To Represent?

One of the worst kept, and at the same time best kept, secrets in Washington over the last few years has been the negotiations over the Trans Pacific Partnership, commonly referred to as TPP. If you’ve been following what we discuss, the TPP should be very familiar to you by now; it’s one of our favorite subjects to write about.

Trade Ministers from TPP meeting in Vladivostok. Photo by East Asia and Pacific Media Hub U.S. Department of State [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Trade Ministers from TPP meeting in Vladivostok. Photo by East Asia and Pacific Media Hub U.S. Department of State [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

We’ve discussed ad nauseum the secrecy that the Obama administration has enshrouded the negotiations with. However, on Monday The Huffington Post ran a story that puts all the other attempts at hiding the details of the TPP from the public to shame. It goes like this: Continue reading

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The UnAmerican Agreement

On the way back from his middle-east trip, President Obama recently made the statement in a speech that the fears surrounding TPP are exaggerated, and that once it is passed and people can see what is in it, they will like what it has. If that is true, why isn’t the text available now, and why is Obama wanting to fast track the agreement through Congress? Why is it so secretive if it is so wonderful? Is there fear of an euphoric reaction?

Image courtesy IBEW, used by permission.

Image courtesy IBEW, used by permission.

The agreement, known in shorthand as the TPP, would be history’s largest single multinational free trade agreement that could significantly transform the U.S. economy. The 19th round of talks among a dozen negotiating countries took place in Brunei last August in which participants said significant progress had been made in negotiating tariffs. In November South Korea announced interest in joining the negotiations, become the 14th country to do so. Talks have since stalled over concerns in Japan over opening its highly protected market. With mid-term elections in the U.S. in November, talks are likely to be on hold at least until the end of the year,” reports International Business Times.

Two years ago, President Obama signed the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement. Since then, what have we gained?

  • U.S. goods exports to Korea have fallen below the pre-FTA average monthly level for 21 out of 22 months since the deal took effect.
  • U.S. average monthly exports to Korea have fallen in 11 of the 15 sectors that export the most to Korea, relative to the year before the FTA.
  • While losing sectors have faced relatively steep export declines (e.g. a 12 percent drop in computer and electronics exports, an 11 percent drop in exports of machinery), none of the four “winning” sectors have experienced an average monthly export increase of greater than 2 percent.
  • Average monthly exports of U.S. agricultural products to Korea have fallen 41 percent.
  • The average monthly U.S. automotive trade deficit with Korea has grown 19 percent.
  • The United States has lost an estimated cumulative $9.2 billion in exports to Korea under the FTA’s first two years, compared with the exports that would have been achieved at the pre-FTA level.                                                                               (Source: Huffington Post Business)

Huffington Post Business, Lori Walloch, Director, Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, writes “…even if you count only exports on the Korea FTA’s unhappy second birthday, it’s bad news. And American farmers, ranchers and auto and other manufacturing workers — the sectors Obama said would be the major winners — are the hardest hit.”

“Oh, and imports did increase too. Our bilateral monthly trade deficit with Korea has ballooned 47 percent. Using the administration’s export-to-job ratio, the estimated $8.6 billion drop in net U.S. exports to Korea in the FTA’s first two years represents the loss of more than 50,000 jobs lost. Recall that Obama said the pact would generate 70,000 new American jobs overall.”

“All of this would be sufficiently alarming on its own merits. But, the Korea FTA text was literally used as the U.S. opening text for most of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Despite these shocking results, Obama hopes to close the controversial 14-nation TPP during his April Asia trip instead of taking the actual outcomes of the Korea FTA seriously and launching a major rethink of the TPP.”

“But the Korea FTA pact’s dismal outcomes are making it even more difficult for the Obama administration to get Congress to delegate away its constitutional trade authority via Fast Track for the TPP. While two-thirds of House Democrats opposed the Korea pact in 2011, many of those who supported it are now announcing opposition to Fast Track, having been moved by the evidence of its damage and the emptiness of the administration’s promises. And GOP members who supported the FTA are also facing heat as the damage sinks in.”

Image courtesy IBEW, used by permission.

Image courtesy IBEW, used by permission.

After signing NAFTA 20 years ago, Americans have leaned that trade agreements mean corporate profits at the expense of American jobs and economic stability. They know it means our markets will be flooded with products made overseas for sale at cheaper prices than can be produced in the US without child labor and sweat shop conditions. And these concerns do not even begin to address some of the things TPP purports to include.

Indeed – the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) states in their publication, “The Electrical Worker,” “Critics of the deal question what good can come from a trade agreement where negotiations have so far been held in secret. Legislators, unions, environmental and other citizens groups have been excluded from the talks, while more than 600 corporate lobbyists have been inside the discussions from the beginning.” Halliburon, Chevron, PHRMA, Comcast, the Motion Picture Association, and a host of other corporations have all been seated at the negotiating table. But not a single citizen representative has been invited.

Americans are tired of suffering from buyers remorse because of poor decisions made by our government. If a law, regulation or agreement will profoundly alter how we live, how we work and what rights we have, we should have a say about it. That is called democracy. An agreement written behind closed doors in secret for the benefit of corporate sponsors and forced on a population is called a plutocracy, and that is NOT American.

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