We Need a Speed Bump, Not Fast Track

Twenty years ago, NAFTA (North America Free Trade Agreement) was sold to Americans as a job-creating, economy-stimulating trade deal. But 20 years later, we know we have been duped. NAFTA cost the United States more than 1 million manufacturing jobs because of imports from Canada and Mexico or the relocation of factories to those countries. Despite a 239% rise in food imports under NAFTA, the average food price in the U.S. went up 67% -- exactly the opposite of what was promised during the debate. Wages have been stagnant. Only the rich and big corporations got richer. And now the administration and some in Congress are seeking authority to fast track international trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – which is being negotiated and modeled after NAFTA but involves 11 Asian and Latin American countries – that benefit international corporations but undermine labor rights, food safety, environment, anti-trust policy, and more. 

What does this fast track authority mean? It means things are allowed to be negotiated behind closed doors. With this authority, the administration and corporations can negotiate international trade deals without input from Congress and the American people who will be affected by them. Congress can only approve the deal or vote it down completely – which has never happened before – without making any changes no matter how problematic some provisions might be.

Why do you have to care about TPP? Because it affects you as a worker and consumer in so many ways. According to the leaked documents (they are being so secretive about it that that was the only way to learn about the deal), TPP would restrict certain buy local and buy American initiatives. It would create new patent extensions for drug companies that would raise medicine prices for us all. It would allow foreign food companies to import food to the U.S. without following the U.S. food and safety standards. It would allow foreign companies to challenge U.S. laws and policies and require American taxpayers to fork over millions or billions of dollars in damages. This provision, called Investor-State Dispute Settlement, is increasingly common in trade agreements and its use is on the rise. For example, a French company sued Egypt because Egypt raised its minimum wage. Philip Morris is using the provision to stop Uruguay’s new tobacco regulations intended to cut smoking rates. Another provision would provide incentives for the U.S. to send jobs to low-wage countries, many of which have a long track record of human rights violations. 

AFGE stands with the entire labor movement against fast-track authority and bad trade deals like TPP. The AFL-CIO Executive Council, which AFGE is part of, met in Atlanta this week and issued a statement calling for transparency and reform in trade negotiations especially Fast Track. Read the council’s statement here.

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