The text of the proposed new “US-Mexico-Canada Agreement” released late on Sunday night reveals the stranglehold that corporate interests have upon our government, and underscores the absolute necessity of international solidarity among working people from all three countries in order to move forward.
In contrast to the negotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1993-94, these negotiations sparked a much-needed conversation on the importance of raising labor standards in all three countries. The small improvements on labor issues undoubtedly reflect the pressure put on all three governments by workers and their unions.
We hope its provisions on automobiles will lead to more stability for U.S. and Canadian auto workers, but it falls far short of our demands for an agreement that raises living standards for workers across industries and across borders through protection of labor rights and investment in infrastructure, jobs and social programs.
We welcome the ending of the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) process between the U.S. and Canada, but question the decision to keep it in place for Mexico. Are Mexican workers and communities not also deserving of autonomy and self-governance, of the ability to make their own decisions and not be overruled by an unelected court? The exclusion of Mexico from one of the most significant improvements in this agreement smacks of the anti-Mexican racism promoted by the current US administration. The agreement rightfully keeps in place Article 19 and 20 protecting Canadians from unwanted or unwarranted usurpations of their sovereign rights, but again, Mexico’s exclusion from these protections is troubling.
The USMCA itself offers little to protect US labor rights. It does not require enforcement of international labor standards and principles of freedom of association, such as the right of workers to negotiate union security clauses which enable financial stability to worker organizations and which so-called “right-to-work” laws prohibit. It does, however, include the special deals for banks, pharmaceutical companies, technology companies and the energy industry that are even more corporate-friendly than the provisions for those industries in the rejected Trans-Pacific Partnership.
We are especially concerned about the drug-patent provisions, included at the behest of Big Pharma, that will force Canadians and Mexicans to pay more for drugs. This is a blow to the movements pushing for a public Pharmacare system in Canada, and places yet another obstacle in the way of achieving a universal and affordable “Medicare for All” single-payer healthcare system in the U.S.
We also agree with our allies in the Sierra Club that USMCA “poses even greater environmental threats than the original NAFTA.” It had no provisions addressing the concerns of women, people of color or indigenous communities, all of whom have been disproportionately hurt by NAFTA.
This new agreement does not correct the injustices that workers and our communities have suffered from NAFTA. For these reasons we reject the agreement as presently constituted and urge continued negotiations, with greater transparency and wider popular participation. Workers and our communities deserve an agreement which protects our right to a decent and environmentally sustainable living and has enforcement mechanisms to insure that sovereignty, democracy, and justice can be defended from corporate actions which benefit the 1% at the expense of the 99%.
Director of Organization