Friends of the Earth’s senior trade analyst Bill Waren recently appeared on the Progressive Radio Network’s show Connect the Dots, where he discussed with host Alison Rose Levy the threat to the environment posed by Donald Trump’s renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Below are excerpts from the show, which is available in its entirety in a podcast that you can listen to here.
Alison Rose Levy: “What is the core problem with these global trade agreements?”
Bill Waren: “The core problem is that “trade agreements” mandate the rollback of public interest regulations and public interest policies that have been established by democratic institutions. And unlike other international deals these so-called trade deals can be effectively enforced through a system of arbitration that can trump the decisions of a democratically-elected Congress, the Supreme Court, or the President or similar institutions in other countries. These [arbitration tribunals] can enforce their decisions with retaliatory trade sanctions like punitive tariffs on a country’s exports or withdrawing international property rights like patent protections. And, in the case of investment tribunals — they can levy unlimited money damages — sometimes in the billions of dollars — that can break a country’s public budget. This is paid to rich investors and rich multinational corporations in compensation for having to obey sensible regulations particularly in the area of the environment and public health.
Alison: “What is the Trump Administration trying to push forward at this time?”
Bill: “The Trump Administration is moving forward to renegotiate a number of existing U.S. trade agreements and they are starting out with the most important one of all: the North American Free Trade Agreement between Mexico, the United States, and Canada. [Trump] is playing a game of bait and switch. He was calling NAFTA in his campaign “the worst trade deal ever.” But, it is now very clear that he has modified his message. And, he is not behaving as if it was the worst deal ever. In fact, he is going back in to renegotiate it to provide even more giveaways to wealthy investors and giant multinational corporations. He is a very effective con man. He is looking out for Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, and the big investment banks — and wealthy individuals who helped him with his campaign and with whom he hobnobs at his Florida golf resort.”
Alison: “There will be more extraction of fossil fuels that contribute to acceleration of climate change. Is that a fair summary?
Bill: “Efforts to save the Paris Climate Accord and to save the planet from melting down: all these would be violations of [his trade agreements]. Remember that Trump is the man who scandalized the whole world by pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord. He is bringing that same “war on the planet” attitude to negotiating these agreements.
For example, they are putting new language in the NAFTA agreement that would roll back regulation of dangerous chemicals such as those associated with breast cancer, autism, or infertility. There is language in that will be put into these agreements that will restrict our capacity to regulate neonic pesticides, which are killing the bees. Product labeling measures such as dolphin safe tuna labeling and GMO labeling can be attacked. There are also ones related to general food safety. They would apply cost-benefit analysis that would impose absolutely unreasonable requirements of scientific certainty before you could engage in very basic food and product safety regulation.”