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Toward a Progressive Trade Agenda for People and Planet
With ratification of NAFTA 2.0 still up in the air in the US and Canada, a new international report contrasts the deeply flawed agreement with proposals for a more progressive and truly fair trade regime.
“Beyond NAFTA 2.0: A Trade Agenda for People and the Planet” is jointly published in English and Spanish by the Ottawa-based Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), the Washington, DC–based Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) and the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation’s New York office. It includes contributions from trade experts and activists from all three North American countries. The report calls for a radical transformation of the rules governing North American trade in goods and services, intellectual property rights, e-commerce, investment and other matters.
CCPA senior trade researcher Scott Sinclair sums up the new approach as “insisting on trade rules that give priority to human rights and the rights of nature over corporate rights.” The report advocates a new system of fair trade that is “equitable in the distribution of its benefits, respectful of the Earth’s ecological limits, and accepting the right of countries in the Global South to pursue and prioritize local and national economic development and of all citizens to have access to good jobs and high-quality, universal public services,” says co-editor Manuel Pérez-Rocha of IPS. Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung Executive Director Andreas Günther adds, that this framing allows us to relate “on the global stage to the fulfillment of UN Sustainable Development Goal 10, ‘to reduce inequality within and among countries.’”
The report’s key recommendations call for future trade agreements to:
- Fully eliminate investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanisms that allow foreign investors and corporations to contest public policy decisions through private international arbitration;
- Enshrine binding, enforceable obligations to combat climate change and safeguard greenhouse gas reduction initiatives from trade challenge;
- Replace excessive intellectual property rights with balanced rules that encourage innovation while supporting user rights, data privacy and access to affordable medicines;
- Establish a floor of strong, fully enforceable labor rights that enable workers to take complaints to independent international secretariats, which can proactively investigate labor rights abuses;
- Recognize and respect gender and Indigenous rights, including prioritizing women’s employment and economic well-being, and recognizing Indigenous title to land and resources;
- Pursue regulatory co-operation that respects jurisdictional autonomy and aims to harmonize to the highest standards;
- Fully protect the right to preserve, expand, restore and create public services without trade treaty interference; and
- End the current secrecy in trade negotiations and privileged access for vested interests.
The report strongly condemns the bullying trade tactics of the Trump administration, such as threatened tariffs on Mexican products unless its government cracks down on Central American migrants.
“Our approach to trade issues could not be more different than Trump’s,” says co-editor and Paris-based trade consultant Ethan Earle. “We embrace international co-operation but want to reorient it so that it stops serving only the needs of global corporations.”
“If Trump’s disruptive antics have one silver lining it is that they underline the fact that trade rules are not preordained or immutable,” says Sinclair. “Corporations wrote them for their own narrow interests, and citizens can rewrite them to suit more socially and economically worthy ends.