Monthly Archives: July 2017

Wanted: A Trade Agenda That Values People Over Corporations

The Rexnord Corporation can trace its manufacturing roots all the way back to 1892. For generations, the workers at its Indianapolis ball bearings plant earned decent wages that enabled them to support their families. But no longer. This year, Rexnord Corporation is laying off hundreds of workers so it can move their jobs from Indiana to Mexico, where it can pay a paltry $3 an hour. Those lost jobs and shattered lives in Indiana are just another consequence of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

POIL08

Both the United Steelworkers union and the Sierra Club have opposed NAFTA since it was first proposed in the 1990s. In the ensuing decades, our fears have been realized time and again. NAFTA has undercut workers and environmental protections everywhere — from Manitoba to Mexico — by allowing corporations to cross borders in a continuous search for not only the lowest wages but also the weakest labor and environmental standards. It is in large part because of NAFTA that families on both sides of our borders have been exposed to more air and water pollution.

Recently, the Trump administration published its plans for NAFTA renegotiation, yet again it offered no specifics on what it hopes to accomplish. One thing should be clear by now, though: To prevent another disastrous corporate giveaway, we need a trade agenda that values people — not just profits. Any agreement that replaces NAFTA must improve the lives of workers, ensure clean air and water, and support healthy communities in Canada, the U.S., and Mexico. Workers do not want another trade deal that pollutes our air and water any more than environmentalists want one that eliminates more jobs.

The example of Rexnord illustrates what’s at stake. Last year, company executives informed workers at its profitable Indianapolis factory that it would move their jobs to Mexico so it could “operate in a more cost-effective manner.” In this case, “cost-effective” translates to more easily exploiting workers, given that Mexico’s wages are low, its labor standards are weak, and its unions are often controlled by corporations instead of workers. At the same time, by sending jobs over the border from Indianapolis to Monterrey, Mexico, Rexnord will also benefit from extremely lax environmental standards. According to a report by the Environmental Protection Agency, there were more than 16,000 federally regulated facilities in Mexico’s border region last year (an increase of more than 10,000 facilities in just eight years). Yet in 2015, Mexico conducted fewer than 600 federal inspections of those facilities for compliance with environmental laws.

Rexnord Corporation’s move to Mexico may mean a bigger bonus for its CEO, who earned nearly $1.5 million last year. But it also means that 300 American workers are losing good, family-supporting jobs, and that American taxpayers will be expected to pick up the pieces to support those workers until they can find new jobs. Unfortunately, studies show that most of those workers will never find be able to find jobs that pay as much as those they lost.

Why did we end up with a trade deal that continually prioritizes corporate profits over community values, workers’ rights, human health, and an unpolluted environment? Because it was corporations that were represented at the negotiating table. NAFTA was written behind closed doors, with hundreds of corporate “advisors” given privileged access to secret texts. Throughout this process, the public was kept in the dark.

After enduring the consequences of NAFTA for more than two decades, workers and communities across North America deserve a fresh start, not tweaks to a deal that was struck for billionaires. The only way to get a trade agreement that benefits real people is to insist that it be negotiated in the open, not in corporate boardrooms. Workers, environmentalists, health advocates, human rights groups, and consumer organizations must all have seats at the table, and negotiating texts must be transparent to the public for input, review, and debate.

If NAFTA is to be renegotiated, then we must seize the chance to replace its race to the bottom in labor and environmental standards with a race to the top. A successor to NAFTA must support good union jobs, living wages, healthy communities, clean air and water, and a more stable climate. Any trade agreement that doesn’t meet those basic criteria will only lead to outcomes like the one in Indianapolis: more lost jobs, more harmed families, and more polluted air and water.

Michael Brune is executive director of the Sierra Club. Leo Gerard is president of United Steelworkers. Writing here for the Morning Consult

Advertisements

“Detailed” list of negotiating objectives for NAFTA finally released.

It is disappointing but not shocking that the plan does not describe the NAFTA overhaul to prioritize working people that Trump promised.

pcf-logo

Melanie Foley of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch writes ‘ Instead, the language on NAFTA’s offshoring incentives, corporate tribunals, Buy American ban, and labor and environmental standards is very vague. It’s unclear if there may be some gains possible for working people or if these provisions will get worse by adding Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) terms.

While the document starts by promising to bring down the trade deficit, much of the rest of it sounds like business-as-usual, with a lot of language borrowed from the TPP — a deal that Trump supposedly hates.

Tell your members of Congress: Denounce Trump’s plan and commit to our 10-point list for NAFTA renegotiation.

Email them today.

Largely, the plan uses copied-and-pasted language about negotiating objectives from the 2015 Fast Track bill. That bill was unequivocally rejected by labor, environmental groups, consumer organizations and a majority of congressional Democrats.

Specifically, the document released yesterday:

  • Does not call for elimination of the controversial investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) system that allows multinational corporations to attack our laws for unlimited taxpayer money.
  • Does not require removal of the ban on Buy American and Buy Local from NAFTA.
  • Does not require labor and environmental standards superior to those in the TPP and may even roll back the weak TPP rules.
  • Does not require improved consumer safety protections and may impose more limits.
  • Does not call for rolling back the terms that enable pharmaceutical corporations to make lifesaving medicines unaffordable.

In short, if this is Trump’s NAFTA plan, then we can all forget about his grandiose campaign rhetoric about making NAFTA “much better” for working people.

Instead, we could be looking at the same old corporate-dominated process that could result in making NAFTA even worse.

Urge your members of Congress to advocate for our 10-point list for NAFTA renegotiation — not to let the Trump administration make NAFTA worse by adding TPP terms.

Now that this (insufficient) document has been issued, negotiations can start in 30 days, even though the American people have no clear view of what the administration will be hoping to achieve.

These 30 days are our next window for action.

We have our work cut out for us. But together, we can hold Trump accountable and demand a transparent NAFTA renegotiation that truly puts people and the planet first.

Take action now.

Lori Wallach statement:

“This document does not describe the promised transformation of NAFTA to prioritize working people that some voters were expecting based on President Trump’s campaign pledges.

More than 910,000 specific American jobs have been certified as lost to NAFTA under just one narrow program, but this document does not make clear whether NAFTA’s job offshoring incentives or its ban on Buy American procurement policy will be eliminated or labor or environmental standards better than the widely rejected one in the TPP will be added.

The document is quite vague so while negotiations can start in 30 days, it’s unclear what will be demanded on key issues, whether improvements for working people could be in the offing or whether the worst aspects of the TPP will be added making NAFTA yet more damaging for working people. The administration should follow the European Union’s practice and make public its actual proposals being shared with Mexico and Canada prior to talks starting.

The Trump administration has a very narrow pathway to both achieving the president’s campaign pledges on NAFTA and passing a new NAFTA deal. Achieving Trump’s campaign-promised NAFTA deficit-lowering and U.S. job creation goals will require changes to NAFTA that GOP congressional leaders and the corporate lobby oppose and about which this document remains vague. Even if a bloc of GOP rank and file members may support elimination of NAFTA’s investor offshoring incentives and Buy American ban, which are necessary to achieve Trump’s goals, a sizeable bloc of Democratic votes will be needed to pass a new NAFTA of that sort. But GOP congressional leaders and the corporate lobby are demanding TPP elements be added to NAFTA and that will push away Democrats. Some aspects of that TPP agenda can be seen in today’s document because much of the text repeats the negotiating objectives of the 2015 Fast Track bill, which GOP leaders and the corporate lobby loved and most congressional Democrats, a sizeable bloc of GOP congressional members and labor and civil society groups opposed.”

As E.U. and Japan Strengthen Trade Ties, U.S. Risks Losing Its Voice

In the master plan advanced by President Trump, an unabashedly aggressive United States is supposed to reclaim its rightful perch as the center of the commercial universe, wielding its economic dominance to dictate the rules of global trade.

07GLOBALTRADE1-master675

As it turns out, the rest of the planet has its own ideas.

Major economies show no inclination to accept American designs on trade — an attitude on display on Thursday as the European Union and Japan agreed to the broad outlines of a free trade deal before a summit meeting of world leaders. If completed, the deal would further the exchange of goods and services between their two markets while, in relative terms, diminishing opportunities for American companies.

These two trading powers, both bedrock American allies, are effectively proceeding with plans to bolster globalization just as the United States is turning to protectionism. Large areas of the global economy are now on divergent paths, creating more uncertainty for multinational companies.

Last fall, Canada and the European Union struck a mammoth trade deal, establishing the rules for a significant chunk of commerce across the Atlantic. The bloc’s latest deal tethers its fortunes closer to Asia and to Japan, which has the world’s third-largest economy.

By contrast, the United States debates the merits of erecting a wall along its southern border, argues about the legality of barring immigrants from several predominantly Muslim nations, and contemplates imposing tariffs on steel imports.

“We were able to demonstrate a strong political will to the effect that Japan and the E.U. will hoist the flag of free trade high amidst protectionist trends,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan said at a news conference in Brussels announcing the agreement. “This is an achievement we should be proud of which also sends a strong message to the world.”

The European Union and Japan are placing a bet on global integration as a source of enhanced prosperity — economic ties that come with geopolitical benefits.

For Japan, the deal would strengthen its relationship with Europe and reinforce economic links in an era in which Tokyo is obsessed with adjusting to China’s rise as a global commercial power. Japan is particularly eager to forge stronger alliances as protection against China’s naval-backed territorial claims.

For the European Union, the deal reinforces the power of its single marketplace stretching from Ireland to Greece while delivering proof of its global aspirations. This, just as Europe contends with Britain abandoning the bloc in a step that will diminish its size.

In simple economic terms, the new deal could deliver considerable punch, laying down common rules aimed at promoting Japanese investment in Europe. The pact also explicitly affirms the Paris climate accord, which Mr. Trump recently shunned.

It is expected to bolster sales in Europe for Japanese carmakers like Honda and Toyota, while enabling European agricultural industries to sell more products in Japan. Tokyo is also likely to make it easier for European companies to bid for major government contracts, potentially giving an edge to industrial giants like Siemens of Germany and Alstom of France.

The deal “sends a very powerful signal to the rest of the world that Japan and the E.U. are partners, are friends, are allies and we want to stand up together to defend free and fair and sustainable trade in a climate where that is not taken for granted,” said Cecilia Malmstrom, the European trade commissioner.

As Mr. Trump has pressed his “America First” mantra, he has consistently pointed to trade agreements when decrying what he sees as his country’s unenviable status as the suckers in the global economy. In this spirit, he pulled the United States out of a sprawling trans-Pacific trade agreement forged by President Barack Obama. He has begun renegotiating the terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement linking the United States, Canada and Mexico. He has even suggested that he might revoke American participation in the World Trade Organization.

This week, Mr. Trump deployed his favorite bully pulpit, Twitter, to issue a broadside against American trade deals.

Screen Shot 2017-07-06 at 3.43.06 PM“They see bilateral deals as a way for us to bully other countries,” said Chad P. Bown, a trade expert at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

In taking this approach, the United States risks having less of a voice in the global trade discussion as other economies take their own paths.

Japan, for example, has long lavished extraordinary protections on its farmers, walling off dairy in particular from international competition.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership — the giant trade deal that Mr. Trump renounced — would have forced Japan to open its market to agricultural imports, probably increasing sales of American goods in Japan. Now, Europe will have the edge, since Japan is expected to lower tariffs on European cheese like Gouda from the Netherlands.

An analysis from the London School of Economics concluded that the United States was in a far stronger position than Europe to exploit the Pacific deal by selling more wares in Japan. The United States has a far more developed commercial relationship with Japan, selling nearly $108 billion worth of goods and services to the Asian nation last year. By contrast, Europe sent goods and services worth 58 billion euros, or about $66 billion, to Japan.

“I’m not sure that they understand that when two other countries have a free-trade agreement and we don’t have one with either country, that’s bad for us,” said Mr. Bown, the trade expert. “Our companies are now discriminated against.”

If Mr. Trump makes good on his protectionist threats, the United States could also find itself on difficult geopolitical ground.

Read the whole article in the NY Times.

Nafta’s Corporate Goodies Are Its Biggest Problem

Decades of Congress delegating away its constitutional trade authority mean Trump can unilaterally reopen the North American Free Trade Agreement for negotiation or create new bilateral deals with Mexico and Canada. He can sign and enter into deals before Congress gets a vote and then force congressional consideration in 90 days with amendments forbidden and Senate supermajority rules suspended.

6c113023-8cb0-4ef2-b1fa-d9f0c6d5b35e

A replacement would have to avoid benefits that help companies without helping American workers.

It’s paradoxical that Trump, who pledged to “get a much better deal for our workers” and withdraw from Nafta if that failed, will benefit from this Fast Track authority that was narrowly enacted by supporters of the trade deals he hates.

But to get the trade deficit reduction and job creation Trump promised, a replacement of Nafta would be needed. It won’t be fixed by mere tweaks.

Even if Nafta were eliminated, trade would not revert to pre-Nafta tariff levels. The Nafta nations are all World Trade Organization signatories. Current median applied trade-weighted tariff rates are 1 percent for Mexico and Canada and 1.6 percent for the U.S., according to the World Bank.

Rather, the target for renegotiation is Nafta’s expansive non-trade terms that determine who wins and loses in the global economy and reflect the interests of the 500 official U.S. trade advisors representing corporate interests enjoying a privileged role in developing past trade deals.

Given that Nafta is packed with these (often protectionist) corporate goodies, wiping the slate clean and creating a new deal is the way to deliver on job creation and deficit reduction goals. Many Nafta terms are non-starters.

Nafta’s Chapter 11 promotes offshoring with special protections for firms that relocate. Private enforcement of these privileges, called Investor State Dispute Settlement, empowers investors to sue a government before a panel of three corporate lawyers to obtain unlimited sums of money from taxpayers (including compensation for loss of future profits) when firms believe policies in the country to which they have relocated violate Nafta provisions. Hundreds of millions have been paid under this extrajudicial Nafta regime available only to relocated corporations.

Another no-go are Nafta’s terms that waive Buy American rules for government procurement. These terms send our tax dollars offshore rather than investing them to create jobs here.

What terms are necessary? A Nafta replacement must level the playing field by conditioning trade benefits on improvements in Mexican wage levels and on countries adopting and rigorously implementing policies to fulfill the International Labor Rights Conventions and Multilateral Environmental Agreements obligations to which they have committed.

Absent such labor and environmental measures, stronger rules of origin – requirements for greater North American content in products qualifying for trade benefits – would push more American companies to low-cost Mexico.

A Nafta replacement must also discipline against trade distortions caused by undervalued currencies, a factor like labor and environmental costs that can entirely undermine gains other improvements achieve.

Perhaps the only upside to our $168.3 billion NAFTA goods trade deficit ($134 billion, if the service sector surplus is included) is that Mexico and Canada have a greater interest in a new deal than we do.

But Trump still must build House and Senate majorities to enact his promised Nafta redo. And to deliver on his stated goals, it must exclude the offshoring incentives and other elements that most congressional Republicans and their corporate allies support. That means not alienating congressional Democrats who for decades have promoted Nafta alternatives to expand trade without undermining American jobs and wages, access to affordable medicine, food safety or environmental protections.

Many congressional Republicans and the corporations view Nafta renegotiation as a means to revive aspects of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, including limits on generic competition that lowers medicine prices. Including this would gut Democratic support.

If corporate elites shape Nafta renegotiations, the resulting deal could not only be more damaging to working people, but — like TPP — impossible to enact.

Miscalculation about what terms make for a politically viable Nafta replacement could make withdrawal – which Mr. Trump could do unilaterally — the only option.

By Lori Wallach writing for the NY Times.

NAFTA, Trump and Canada: A guide to the trade file and what it could mean for you

For more than 20 years, NAFTA has tied the continent’s economy together. Now, Washington wants to give the trade deal a massive overhaul in talks starting this summer. Get caught up on Canada’s publication the Globe’s latest coverage of what that means 

nafta-main

Trade: Where we are right now

  • U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lightizer appears to have wrested control of the NAFTA file from U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, President Donald Trump’s original point man on the trade deal, The Globe and Mail has learned.
  • Sources say Mr. Lighthizer has made it clear to Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister that he answers only to the President and Congress, and any bilateral issues should go through him or his general counsel, Steven Vaughan.
  • A senior government official said Mr. Ross, a 79-year-old billionaire, is still responsible for major day-to-day issues like the softwood lumber dispute.
  • One of the U.S. demands in NAFTA talks is to scrap its existing system of independent dispute-settlement panels. That is a “red line” that the Trudeau government will not cross, a senior official told The Globe, saying Canada is ready to walk away from talks if the U.S. won’t budge on the issue.
  • If either Canada or Mexico withdraw from the talks, NAFTA stays as it is. Mr. Trump, who threatened to terminate the NAFTA deal months ago, may then make good on his threat.
  • Asked about The Globe’s report in Ottawa on Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the panels were “essential” to the revamped deal, but stopped short of saying he’d pull out of talks if the American side insists on removing them.
  • Mr. Trudeau spoke alongside new B.C. Premier John Horgan, who was in Ottawa ahead of a Washington trip where he’ll speak with Mr. Ross about the softwood dispute, which affects B.C.’s biggest U.S. export. Mr. Horgan and Mr. Trudeau saidresolving the softwood issue before NAFTA talks begin would clear an important hurdle for Canada’s negotiators. “We need to get it off the table,” Mr. Horgan said.
  • The first round of NAFTA talks will be held in Washington on Aug. 16-20. These are the Trump administration’s priorities for the talks, as laid out by Mr. Lighthizer earlier this month.

And now, some background:

What is NAFTA?

Why change it?

What does Trump want a new NAFTA to look like?

Contentious issues for Canada

What about Mexico?

Who’s deciding its future?

How could this affect me?

What about the rest of the world?

What’s next?

From- The Globe and Mail.

US, UK officials launch trade forum

Top U.S. and British trade officials met Monday in Washington to start building the foundation for an eventual trade agreement after the United Kingdom officially leaves the European Union.

lighthizer-robert-gettyU.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer met with Liam Fox, the United Kingdom’s international trade secretary, to launch the U.K.-U.S. Trade and Investment Working Group aimed at strengthening economic ties and providing certainty for businesses on both sides of the Atlantic while Britain completes a deal with the EU.

“We expect this working group to be a key mechanism to deepen our already strong bilateral trade and investment relationship, and to lay the groundwork for our future trade relationship once the U.K. has left the EU,” Lighthizer said in a joint statement.

“This will be our forum to strengthen the bilateral trade and investment relationship and deepen the already extensive economic ties between the U.K. and U.S.,” Fox said.

President Trump has said he wants to create a trade deal with the U.K. “quickly” but an exit agreement must be completed first with the EU.

During his two-day visit to Washington, Fox is talking trade with the Trump administration, Congress and business interests.

“The U.S. is our single largest trading partner therefore we have a strong foundation on which to build,” he said in the joint statement.

On Tuesday, Fox will release a report highlighting the benefits of U.S.-U.K. trade across all 435 congressional districts as part of the sell to lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

The report’s findings show that more than 700,000 U.S. jobs were supported by exports to the U.K. in 2015.

Earlier in the day, Fox made the case for the importance of global trade.

“We believe that an open, free and fair trading system is an unequivocal force for good,” Fox said during remarks at the American Enterprise Institute.

“But for the first time in decades, the established order of fair, free and open global commerce, which has done so much to enrich and empower the world’s nations, is under threat,” he said.

Protectionist policies, which have sprouted across many of the world’s largest economies since the financial crisis of 2008, are stunting global growth, Fox said.

“This matters because the silting up of the global trading environment has implications beyond mere economics,” Fox said.

“For the economic prosperity that a liberal trading system generated is a potent force for social stability,” he said.

“That social stability underpins political stability, which in turn contributes to our collective security.”

He urged Britain and the U.S. to lead by example and encourage and enforce a rules-based trading system to ensure the world’s geopolitical stability.

Beyond abolishing tariffs on goods, Fox argued that Britain, the U.S. and other trading partners must look most closely at ways to unlock the trade in services, which includes finishing the Trade in Services Agreement.

“Extending trading freedoms to our service sector means unlocking new, global markets for our tech companies, our finance industry and the wider knowledge-based economy,” he said.

“We should ensure that we give our industries the right conditions to retain that competitive edge.”

Trade between the U.S. and U.K. is on the rise, amounting to about $200 billion a year.

The two nations have an estimated $1 trillion invested in each other’s economies.

Encounter with immigrants seen as ‘eye-opening’

Sitting down with an immigrant who has come to America for a better life was eye-opening for Sister Joan Klass, even though she is well-versed in the topic of immigration, speaks Spanish and had served in Bolivia.

web20170626_lj__immigrationE

Sister Joan, who attended a “Catholic Teach-In on Migration: Creating a Culture of Encounter”, said her group was impressed with the immigrants who attended and gave testimony during discussions in a small-group setting. “We really are impressed the immigrants are putting themselves out there,” she said. “It added a very special dimension to the evening.”

The woman she spoke with had fled a rural area of Mexico because of economic pressures that made it difficult for her and her husband and young child to survive. The trek across the border was treacherous. “They went through a terrible time, separated from their child,” Sister Joan said.

A study led by Center for Economic and Policy Research economist Mark Weisbrot estimates that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) put almost 2 million small-scale Mexican farmers out of work, in turn driving illegal migration to the United States.

The program at St. John the Baptist Parish in St. Louis provided an opportunity to learn about the experiences of local immigrants from Latin America; what the Catholic Church teaches; and how to respond to the nation’s immigration crisis. Sponsors include the Peace & Justice Commission and the Office of Hispanic Ministry of the archdiocese, Catholic Legal Assistance Ministry, St. Francis Community Services Southside Center and the Jesuits of the Central and Southern Province.

The presentation included various facts, including that 11 million undocumented people live in the United States — 5 percent of the labor force — with almost no way to achieve legal status. An estimated 50 to 70 percent of farmworkers are undocumented. Two-thirds of the unauthorized immigrant adults have lived in the United States for 10 years or more and almost 40 percent are parents of children who are U.S. citizens.

According to the presenters, most of these adults pay some form of taxes and are not eligible for Food Stamps, Medicaid, Social Security or Medicare.

At one of the small groups, people listened to an immigrant, Tino, describe his experiences in the United States and the hardships he endured in coming here from a small farming community in Mexico. Though he is close to being on a path to citizenship — his father has permanent resident status — he asked that his full name not be used because of his undocumented status. Tino borrowed $3,000 to pay a “coyote” as the guide across the border are known, and he ended up in Arizona, eventually taking a bus to the Kansas City area where he had relatives. He worked initially as a roofer.

He works hard at two jobs now and doesn’t think he’s “taking” anyone’s jobs because his positions always lack enough applicants. The sacrifices he’s made — his mother remained in Mexico and he was unable to see her or attend her funeral, and he’s had to learn a new language and adjust to a new culture — are worth it for his children, he said. They have opportunities that don’t exist in Mexico, and he expects them to do well in school.

“I love this country,” Tino said. “I’m not from here, but I feel like this is my country.”

Deacon Jim G’Sell of St. Anthony of Padua Parish in High Ridge, said “though I profess to have only minimal understanding of the complexities and challenges of immigration, I found subject dialogue one of the best I’ve participated as an ordained deacon.”

The highlight of the program, Deacon G’Sell said, “was the moving and powerful listening session of our table guest. For me, she put a personal face on the plight of all immigrants, especially undocumented. I absolutely loved this opportunity to hear her story and be able to ask questions.”

From the St Louis review

Argentine biodiesel imports continue to hurt US producers, NBB says

Dumped and subsidized biodiesel imports from Argentina continue unabated, according to new data cited by the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) Fair Trade Coalition. The coalition filed petitions in March with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) alleging the increased volume of biodiesel imports from Argentina and Indonesia have shrunk market share for U.S. manufacturers and injured U.S. producers.

argentina-flagNBB says a business intelligence company reported that Argentinian biodiesel exports reached a five-month high in April, all of which was shipped to the U.S. Even higher volumes are expected for the June report. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), monthly volumes of imports should be well above those seen in the first quarter of 2017, which ranged from 6 million to 23 million gallons. Worsening the situation for U.S. producers, Argentina reduced biodiesel export taxes following the NBB petitions and then lifted those taxes last month, leading to an increase in shipments.

“We’ve received information of potentially 75 million gallons of biodiesel flooding our ports soon – a significant increase from the import levels we saw in January, February and March. We filed the petition to level the playing field for U.S. producers, and the NBB Fair Trade Coalition will use every legal tool available to address these unfairly traded imports,” said Anne Steckel, vice president of federal affairs at NBB.

The Commerce Department is expected to announce its preliminary determinations regarding the estimated rates of subsidization and dumping on or about Aug. 22 and Oct. 20, respectively.

Numerous subsidy programs have been adopted in Argentina. The country’s biodiesel producers have become dominant exporters and taken an increasingly greater share of the U.S. market through dumped prices, NBB says. As a result, U.S. producers have backed off on investments in the growing biodiesel market.

From Agri-Pulse

Trump’s NAFTA: More Pipelines and More Profits for Fossil Fuel Executives

In the latest sign that the White House intends to use trade policy to fill the pockets of corporate polluters, Donald Trump has pushed the theme of American energy “dominance” via a massive build out of fossil fuels exports. The fight to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is more urgent than ever, not only for clean air, water, climate, and jobs, but also for healthy communities everywhere, working people across borders, and environmental justice for all.

download

Anthony Torres writes for the Sierra Club

A couple weeks ago, we described four ways that Trump could make NAFTA worse. Indeed, it has become increasingly clear that Trump is barreling down on a self-serving corporate agenda written by Big Oil and Wall Street. In fact, just days after the American Petroleum Institute (API) submitted its own recommendations to preserve and expand North America’s fossil fuel dependency,  Energy Secretary Rick Perry (a former board member of Energy Transfers Partners,  the builder of four gas pipelines along US-Mexico border), reiterated API’s push to use NAFTA as a means for creating a “North American energy strategy” chained to the fossil fuel past. Fossil fuel executives are so confident in their ties to the Trump Administration that Steven Pruett, chief executive of Eleven Resources, a Texas oil and gas company, openly spoke of how his NAFTA strategy is to simply “reach out to our own Texan, Rick Perry, and bend his ear.” It appears that Trump can rail against NAFTA all he likes from the teleprompter until he hears how much profit he can make for his oil industry friends.

Rather than undermining the real clean energy revolution driving job growth nationwide, we demand a new approach to trade that supports the people and the planet. NAFTA has already profited Chevron and Exxon Mobil at too great a cost to the rest of us. If we are going to have any chance at building the future we need, we will need all hands on deck to stop Trump Trade. We can’t afford a NAFTA 2.0 that builds pipelines across a racist border wall, threatens more of our public and ancestral lands and waters with extraction, and abandons a just transition to a stable climate and a new economy that works for all of us.

We are the movement that defeated the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and we are many. The Sierra Club and our allies and supporters just submitted over 50,000 comments calling for the elimination of the investor-state dispute settlement system (ISDS), protecting buy local and buy green procurement policies, and implementing strong and enforceable environmental and labor standards. We’ll know by July 17th the full extent of Trump’s priorities before negotiations begin in late August, which means now is the critical moment to define our new shared vision for trade justice. I believe that we will win – but only if you join us and take action today.

The movement that defeated TPP has a new goal—and it’s replacing NAFTA

This quote from Lori Wallach, global trade watch director at Public Citizen shows that the surge of grassroots energy is palpable.

images

Those hoping for a better NAFTA want tougher, enforceable labor and environmental standards. A Citizen’s Trade Campaign letter demands that a reformed NAFTA observe “the labor rights and protections included in the International Labor Organization’s Core Conventions and policies that fulfill the Paris climate agreement and other core multilateral environmental agreements.”

NAFTA, which covers the United States, Mexico and Canada, was born despite tremendous opposition from labor and environmental groups, ratified in 1992, and came into force in 1994. Critics say it encourages a “race to the bottom,” in which companies relocate to the place with the lowest wages, labor rights, and environmental standards.

Some progressives view the renegotiation of NAFTA as an opportunity. “We need a fundamentally different approach to trade, one that prioritizes people and planet over profits,” says Ben Beachy, director of the Trade Program at the Sierra Club. The group wants to see strong climate change measures that support the Paris agreement. Other groups emphasize labor rights. The AFL-CIO blueprint for change includes addressing currency manipulation, allowing “Buy America” laws, reinforcing auto jobs, and strengthening anti-dumping rules. The Citizen’s Trade campaign leads with a call to stop incentivizing the offshoring of jobs and includes helping family farms, protecting food safety, and reducing monopolistic practices from drug companies.

So what are their chances of real progressive change?

Wallach divides the administration into a Wall Street wing that likes NAFTA, and a few Trump advisors who advocate for deeper changes, particularly when it comes to protecting jobs.

Among the latter camp is U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, a Trump appointee. “I think it is not a legitimate competitive advantage to have very low environmental standards and I think the same thing is also true with respect to labor standards,” he said at a June 22 hearing, offering hope that the Trump Administration will prioritize American jobs, as Trump promised in the campaign. If Trump’s base “wins the debate, the NAFTA they have in mind is certainly better than what is now in place,” says Wallach. “They don’t like the investor state, they don’t like the ban on ‘Buy America’ provisions, [and they] insist on stronger wage protection.”

Yet the Wall Street faction, which believes in unfettered free trade, is deeply entrenched in the Trump Administration. “Given that he’s stacked his cabinet with billionaires that support job offshoring and climate denial,” says Beachy, a progressive new NAFTA is “not what I would expect.” Beachy points to the lack of a transparent, open process with continuing opportunity for public input as a bad sign.

Leo Gerard, international president of the United Steelworkers, argues for “trade balance between the three countries,” so that “one wouldn’t be used as a dumping ground against the other two.” Mexican standards, he says, need to be raised substantially regarding workers’ rights and wage equality.

One core change sought by the reformers would eliminate the current investor state dispute-settlement mechanism, which allows companies to sue countries for laws that might harm corporate profits. These cases are decided by a tribunal of three corporate lawyers, with a vote of two needed to inflict a financial penalty. Beachy cites several cases brought against laws that protect the environment. In 2012, Lone Pine sued Canada for $250 million (since revised downward to $119 million) due to Quebec’s moratorium on fracking, a case still to be decided. More recently, TransCanada launched a
$15 billion suit against the United States for its refusal to move forward with the Keystone XL pipeline, a touchstone issue among environmentalists (although the suit was suspended when Trump approved the pipeline).

Beachy calls for creating “a dispute settlement process body that is both binding and independent,” rather than the current tribunal of corporate lawyers. Regardless of the short-term outcome, the movement for a progressive new NAFTA will hand progressives a dynamic issue—and a mobilized base—in the 2018 and 2020 elections. The current renegotiation could set the stage for future battles, perhaps for deeper change.