National Farmers Union
WASHINGTON – Initiating an official renegotiation process of past, failed trade deals, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer recently formally notified Congress of the Trump Administration’s intentions to reopen the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
The renegotiation provides the administration with a unique opportunity to reset the U.S. trade agenda, according to National Farmers Union (NFU).
“For far too long, our nation has stuck to a free trade agenda that has led to a massive $500 billion annual trade deficit, lost jobs, and lowered wages in rural communities across the U.S.,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “With this renegotiation of NAFTA, the Trump Administration has the opportunity to reset that agenda by instituting a new, fair trade framework that works for family farmers, ranchers, and rural residents. NFU urges them to do so in a fashion that does not upset the positive trade relations the U.S. agriculture community relies upon.”
Over the past several decades, the United States has entered into free trade agreements with 20 countries, maintaining a consistent trade agreement framework that has advanced the interests of multinational corporations at the expense of family farmers, ranchers, and rural workers. This free trade framework began with the U.S. entering into NAFTA in 1994.
“NAFTA installed, and has since cemented, a set of trade parameters that have benefitted corporate America and damaged rural American communities and economies,” said Johnson.
Johnson noted that NAFTA was the first U.S. trade agreement to include the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) arbitration procedure, which allows foreign companies to sue governments over laws that undermine their profits. These suits go before foreign tribunals, and their results ultimately dictate U.S. laws.
“Provisions like ISDS tip the scales, consolidating money and power into the hands of multinational corporations. They need to be eliminated to support vibrant family farm operations and rural communities,” he noted.
In his NAFTA negotiations, the president also has the opportunity to restore other facets of U.S. sovereignty, like the ability to implement Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL). Just two years ago, a challenge from our NAFTA trading partners, Canada and Mexico, ultimately convinced Congress to repeal COOL, which was supported by more than 90 percent of American consumers.
“We can not allow the interests of foreign governments and companies to dictate our laws here at home,” said Johnson. “The COOL repeal is the perfect example of just how much of our sovereignty we’ve traded away in decades of trade deals. This issue must be addressed in the NAFTA renegotiation. Any provisions keeping the U.S. from instituting COOL or any other commonsense law need to be struck from all of our trade agreements.”
In January 2017, NFU partnered with five other farm and rural groups to issue a set of principles for North American trade policy, titled “Principles of a new U.S. trade policy for North American agriculture.” The recommendations advocate for balanced trade that supports fair and sustainable rural economies and food supplies, and offer the administration a starting point for their upcoming NAFTA renegotiation.
“The president has a tremendous opportunity to institute a fair trade framework that balances trade and benefits the livelihoods of all Americans,” said Johnson. “It is important that he gets this done in a manner that preserves and expands American agriculture’s trade relationships with the rest of the world, which are vital to the success of farmers and ranchers here at home.”