After successfully negotiating enforceable worker protections, AFL-CIO endorses ‘New NAFTA’

THE TRADE RULES IN AMERICA will now be fairer because of our hard work and perseverance,” Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO said after announcing the hard-won gains in the “New NAFTA” – the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement and the AFL-CIO’s decision to endorse the measure. – Nick Ut/AP photo

Washington – After many rounds of negotiations, with the support of allies like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal, Rep. Rosa DeLauro and Sens. Sherrod Brown and Ron Wyden, the AFL-CIO is endorsing the so-called “New NAFTA” – the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

One of the features of the USMCA is an unprecedented enforcement provision that allows the U.S. to verify that Mexican factories are complying with higher labor standards and penalize them if they do not. The mechanism also allows for any of the three countries to file a complaint if they suspect workers are being denied their right to unionize.

As AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka noted: “Working people are responsible for a deal that is a vast improvement over both the original NAFTA and the flawed proposal brought forward in 2017. For the first time, there truly will be enforceable labor standards—including a process that allows for the inspections of factories and facilities that are not living up to their obligations.

“There is no denying that the trade rules in America will now be fairer because of our hard work and perseverance,” he said.

The USMCA also eliminates special carve outs for corporations, like the giveaway to Big Pharma in the Trump Administration’s initial proposal –– a 10-year protection period for biologic drugs that critics said would allow drug companies to keep prices high

The USMCA is far from perfect, Trumka noted. It is not by itself a solution to outsourcing, inequality or climate change.

Successfully tackling those issues, he said, will require a full-court press of economic policies that empower workers, including the repeal of tax cuts that reward companies for shipping U.S. jobs overseas.

More than 16,000 people signed the AFL-CIO’s petition to tell Congress to craft a trade deal that works for everyone.

“We demanded a trade deal that benefits workers and fought every single day to negotiate that deal,” Trumka said. “And now we have secured an agreement that working people can proudly support.

“President Trump may have opened this deal,” Trumka added. “But working people closed it. And for that, we should be very proud.”

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and Mexico’s Undersecretary for North America Jesús Seade met in Mexico City last week for a signing ceremony for the revised deal.

A vote on the U.S. House could come as early as this week. The new trade agreement is expected to pass both the House and Senate with broad support, though it’s unlikely the Senate will take it until early next year.

Lighthizer emphasized at last week’s signing ceremony how significant it was to reach a trade agreement with support from the Trump administration, Democrats, major labor unions and the two North American trade partners.

House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.), who led negotiations with the Trump administration, told Politico the support was hard won.

“This is a transformative agreement,” Neal said. “It’s a template, I believe, for future agreements.”


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