Working people set high bar for NAFTA renegotiation


The first round of negotiations of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) began recently in Washington, D.C.

John Melle, assistant U.S. Trade Representative for the Western Hemisphere, will serve as chief negotiator with Mexico and Canada for the NAFTA negotiations.

Stakes are high in the revamp of the 23-year-old deal that has created a $1.1 trillion trading zone among the three nations since it was implemented in the 1990s.

Congressional lawmakers, business groups and labor unions have been calling for updates of the agreement and, in some cases, wholesale rewrites of the NAFTA deal.

“The North American Free Trade Agreement has flat-out failed working people,” Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO said of the trade agreement.

“For more than two decades, NAFTA has damaged communities and lowered wages for working people across North America. As renegotiations begin today, there is an incredible opportunity to replace this fundamentally flawed trade deal with new rules that work for working families. But how we do it matters. The administration can choose to use this opportunity to benefit working families, or it can further rig the rules to favor corporations and CEOs.”

The AFL-CIO has provided an extensive set of recommendations that could turn the North American Free Trade Agreement into a trade agreement that empowers working people.

The recommendations include changes to labor and procurement rules, as well as improved consumer protections and new rules to prevent currency misalignment and tax dodging. The improvements are meant to ensure working people receive a fair return on their work and new rules aren’t written to benefit wealthy corporations and CEOs.

“It is time for the Trump administration to rewrite NAFTA the right way,” Trumka said.

“If President Donald Trump follows our recommendations — if he renegotiates NAFTA so it’s a real force for higher wages and broadly shared prosperity — we will help him pass it. If he uses renegotiation to further rig the rules for the wealthiest few, we will fight him with everything we have.

“And if President Trump breaks his promise and leaves the worst pieces of NAFTA in place, we will never forget it,” Trumka said.

“We are setting the bar high,” Trumka said. “We will only accept a deal that is renegotiated the right way. That means having a transparent process in which working families have a seat at the table, and ensuring that our freedom to stand together is protected and that all of us can receive a fair return on our hard work. We need to replace benefits for the few with a fair deal that raises wages, stops outsourcing and provides a path to the middle class, no matter where working families live or what their background is. America’s working people have earned this. We deserve nothing less.”

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