Earlier this week, the Trump administration released the text of the proposed U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) trade deal that would replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA. While we’re poring through the details of the deal, it’s pretty clear that it means bad news for people who care about climate change, the environment, food safety, affordable medicine and other consumer safeguards because it gives big multinational corporations carte blanche to pave over our commonsense protections for people, workers and the planet.
The text includes a host of provisions furthering Trump’s aggressive deregulatory agenda. For example, the food safety chapter includes the same ‘sound science’ language championed by former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt — an approach designed to make it easier to attack food safety protections as illegal trade barriers, making it harder to uphold or implement food safety rules. The deal also establishes new ways for Canada and Mexico to second-guess U.S. border inspectors who stop suspicious food shipments so that potentially unsafe products can squeeze through. Another chapter would let industry demand that countries weaken or repeal any regulation — worker safety, environmental, chemical regulations or others — because it was too burdensome to companies.
The deal also benefits the agrochemical industry, smoothing the way for unregulated genetically modified organisms, or GMOs — which are a disaster for the environment. It includes provisions to make it easier to force Mexico to approve GMO crops (even though Mexico’s smallholder farmers do not want GMO corn) and would force Mexico to let big corporations like Bayer-Monsanto and Dow-DuPont shield data about their pesticide safety for 10 years (as already happens in the United States). Trump’s trade deal would even let these chemical companies displace or try and patent Mexico’s nearly 60 native corn varieties and charge farmers for corn they have been planting for free for generations.
It’s not just food safety problems and GMOs. The trade deal is a disaster for the climate, encouraging decades-more fossil fuel dependence (the deal doesn’t even mention climate change). It will bring more pipelines and exports of natural gas and oil that will encourage more fracking in the U.S. and Mexico at a time when we urgently need to move off of fossil fuels to avert the worst effects of the churning climate chaos we are already experiencing. The deal also threatens consumer banking safeguards and data privacy protections, and gives pharmaceutical companies “potentially lethal” new monopoly patent protections that would raise some drug prices.
In short, the deal locks in Trump’s attack on commonsense safeguards – not just for today or during this presidential administration: It cements this attack into a long-term global trade deal and could prevent us from repairing the damage Trump is doing at the EPA and many other federal agencies.
There’s been a lot of coverage about a small number of things in the new deal that are partial improvements. The new NAFTA prunes back the special investment rights that allow companies to sue over regulations like fracking bans, but it still allows some suits by U.S. oil and gas companies over drilling leases in Mexico (and a few other sectors like infrastructure).
And the jury is still out on whether the deal could stop the outsourcing of U.S. jobs. NAFTA shuttered thousands of factories and cost upwards of one million U.S. manufacturing jobs. The new deal made some steps forward on labor issues, including requirements for Mexico to eliminate the company-backed, non-independent “protection contracts” workers are often forced into. But key details remain unfinished — like when (or whether) Mexico will implement promised worker protections and how (or if) labor issues will be enforced under the deal. Our friends in the labor movement say “there are too many details to be worked out” and “despite progress, more work remains to be done.”
What we do know is that this deal is a giant step backwards for people, communities and the environment and will encourage more warming of our planet.
But it’s not a done deal yet. Congress will cast a vote on this pro-polluter deal in 2019. The first step in delivering trade policies that work for people and the environment is for Congress to reject the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.