Monthly Archives: September 2019

Will impeachment focus slow USMCA? Key House Democrats say no; Grassley warns against

House Democrats working with the Trump administration on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement say a newly announced impeachment investigation into the president is unlikely to derail USMCA in Congress.

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And the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Chuck Grassley (R-IA), warned Democrats against mixing the two issues.

“If Democrats use impeachment proceedings as a basis to not act on policy that will directly benefit Americans like the USMCA or lowering prescription drug prices, that would prove they’re more interested in politics and opposing the president at all costs than serving the American people,” he said in a statement. “For my part, I’ll continue focusing on the issues that affect the everyday lives of Iowans. I hope my Democrat colleagues return to doing the same for their constituents.”

Asked by Inside U.S. Trade on Tuesday whether impeachment could have an impact on the speaker’s approach to USMCA, Grassley said it was not “even worth” talking about.

“I think impeachment is very much overblown, particularly now that he’s going to release these transcripts,” Grassley said, referring to Trump’s announcement on Tuesday that he would make public a transcript of a phone conversation he had with the president of Ukraine that is at the heart of the impeachment probe.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on Tuesday announced the lower chamber would move forward with an official impeachment inquiry into President Trump’s conduct, including his request that the Ukrainian president investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son.

The announcement comes as a nine-member House working group assigned by Pelosi is ramping up talks with the administration about its lingering concerns with USMCA. Some members of the working group on Tuesday morning met with AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka to discuss a major issue for Democrats – the enforceability of the deal’s labor provisions. The working group is set to continue negotiations this week with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer

House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA), the working group leader, told reporters after meeting Trumka on Tuesday the impeachment investigation was “up to the parties that are involved” and that he did not see “for the moment” why impeachment might derail ratification efforts.

Ways & Means trade subcommittee Chairman Earl Blummenauer (D-OR) said the impeachment investigation and USMCA ratification were “separate tracks.”

“Not a problem,” Blumenauer, who oversees USMCA biologics talks with the administration, told Inside U.S. Trade.

Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-CA) echoed Blumenauer, saying the two were separate issues. Gomez is playing a lead role in the labor talks with USTR.

Gomez, who attended the Trumka meeting, reaffirmed other working group members’ assertions that they were “all on the same page” as the AFL-CIO in their assessments of the Mexican government’s funding plans for labor reforms called for in USMCA.

“All of us have expressed that to Ambassador Lighthizer in one form or another,” Gomez said, adding that the USTR “shares that same concern that they need to put more resources into their labor reform.”

The co-chair of the pro-trade New Democrat Coalition, Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA), said Congress would have to “walk and chew gum at the same time on issues of trade” amid impeachment efforts.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said on Tuesday he could not predict what impact impeachment proceedings might have on USMCA ratification efforts, then pivoted to what he deemed the central hurdle House Democrats and the administration had yet to resolve – the enforceability of the deal’s labor provisions.

“The big issue with USMCA is enforcement on the labor side – they still haven’t solved that issue no matter what,” Schumer told Inside U.S. Trade.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), a member of the Senate Finance Committee, said he hoped impeachment wouldn’t derail USMCA. “There’s genuine bipartisan, bicameral, executive branch, legislative branch” interest in trying to “get to yes on USMCA,” he said, “and my hope is that we’ll succeed.”

Carper acknowledged that Pelosi has a “long list” of legislative priorities but said he was “sure” USMCA was on her list.

Senate Republicans – in line with the House and Senate Democrats who spoke with Inside U.S. Trade – said impeachment efforts should not impede USMCA ratification efforts.

“House Democrats need to separate out those issues,” Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) said. “USMCA is about … a very, very important trade agreement and it should not be derailed. They need to move their focus back to the job at hand, and that’s taking care of the American people. This trade agreement would do exactly that.”

Impeachment won’t derail the administration’s push, Grassley (R-IA) contended earlier in the day, because “regardless of whether it’s impeachment or anything else, the president isn’t going to make a decision on [USMCA] – it’s going to be Pelosi.”

USMCA ratification is in Pelosi’s court, Grassley said, noting that the administration – at the urging of Grassley and other lawmakers – had not “forced” the issue by sending a USMCA implementing bill to Congress before Pelosi asked for it.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), who serves on the Commerce manufacturing, trade, and consumer protection subcommittee, said impeachment should be left up the House’s panels of jurisdiction – and that USMCA should be brought up for a vote.

“I’ve had a concern since the day the Democrats won control of the House that it wasn’t ever going to be about effective legislation and moving our economy forward – that it’s going to be about investigation and impeachment and now that’s kind of being proven out. So yeah, I got a real concern,” Johnson said.

Despite his concern that impeachment might muddy ratification efforts, Johnson said he had been “pleasantly surprised” to hear from administration officials that Pelosi was negotiating in good faith. He suggested that was “mostly because there are a lot of members that come from districts that want to see good trading relationships with Canada and Mexico.”

Taken From: https://insidetrade.com/daily-news/will-impeachment-focus-slow-usmca-key-house-democrats-say-no-grassley-warns-against

Trump’s NAFTA Deal Threatens Our Air, Water, and Climate

More Outsourcing of Pollution and Jobs, Handouts to Corporate Polluters, and Climate Denial

SIERRA Salmon WB

The Trump administration’s NAFTA deal with Mexico and Canada would encourage further outsourcing of pollution and jobs, offer special handouts to notorious corporate polluters, lock in fossil fuel dependency, and prolong Trump’s polluting legacy for years after he has left office. It not only fails to mention climate change – it would prolong NAFTA’s contribution to the climate crisis. Despite progress on a few fronts, the deal fails to adequately protect wildlife, clean air and water, or the health of communities that NAFTA has exposed to toxic pollution.

In some respects, the deal would offer even less environmental protection than past, polluter-friendly trade deals. In other respects, the deal poses even greater environmental threats than the original NAFTA. Taken as a whole, the deal falls far short of the minimum essential changes that leading environmental groups have outlined as necessary to halt NAFTA’s damage to our air, water, climate, and communities.

An environmental audit of the deal’s text reveals that it:

  • Supports further outsourcing of toxic pollution and jobs: The deal’s lack of binding environmental standards would allow more corporations to evade U.S. environmental policies by shifting jobs and toxic pollution to Mexico, where many environmental policies are weaker. For example, the lack of any binding lead pollution standards in the deal means that corporations would still enjoy NAFTA’s incentives to dump their lead waste in Mexico, which has contributed to job loss in the U.S. and toxic lead poisoning in border communities.
  • Denies climate change: The deal fails to even mention climate change. This denialism leaves intact NAFTA’s incentives for corporations to dodge the hard-fought clean energy policies of U.S. states by moving to Mexico, eliminating jobs and perpetuating climate pollution. This climate loophole only reinforces the U.S.’s status as the world’s largest outsourcer of climate pollution.
  • Rolls back the environmental standards of past trade deals: The deal takes a significant step backwards from the environmental protections included in the last four U.S. trade deals by failing to reinforce a standard set of seven Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) that protect everything from wetlands to sea turtles. The deal includes standard enforcement language for only one of the seven MEAs, while using weak language for two MEAs and failing to even mention four of these essential environmental agreements. The deal even removes the only real environmental standard in the original NAFTA, which said that countries should heed their environmental commitments under five MEAs even if they conflict with NAFTA’s rules. Countries apparently should disobey their environmental commitments if they conflict with the rules of this NAFTA.
  • Includes weak environmental terms: The environment chapter is primarily filled with non-binding terms that mirror the weak words of the polluter-friendly Trans-Pacific Partnership. For example, the text “recognizes that air pollution is a serious threat to public health,” but then fails to include a single binding rule to reduce the air pollution that NAFTA has exacerbated. Much of the language appears designed to greenwash the deal, not to rectify NAFTA’s threats to wildlife, ecosystems, or clean air and water.
  • Copies a failed enforcement system: Even the strongest language will only be effective if enforced. The deal largely replicates the same failed environmental enforcement mechanism from past U.S. trade agreements. Not once has the U.S. used this mechanism in past trade deals to bring a case against a U.S. trade partner for environmental abuses, despite widely documented violations. In fact, this NAFTA deal manages to further weaken the enforcement mechanism of past trade deals by allowing a government that is committing environmental abuses to block a case from advancing.
  • Makes progress on ISDS but offers a dangerous handout to Chevron and ExxonMobil: The deal makes progress in curtailing the overreaching corporate rights in NAFTA’s “investor-state dispute settlement” (ISDS) system…but then uniquely offers those egregious rights to notorious corporate polluters. This special handout is available to all U.S. oil and gas corporations that have, or may at some point have, government contracts for offshore drilling, fracking, oil and gas pipelines, refineries, or other polluting activities in Mexico. That means, for example, that Chevron and ExxonMobil – the two largest corporate climate polluters in history and repeat users of ISDS – would be allowed to challenge environmental protections in Mexico by relying on the same broad corporate rights that they have used to successfully challenge public interest policies from Ecuador to Canada. Other corporations that would enjoy broad rights to challenge environmental policies include U.S. or Mexican firms that obtain government contracts in the environmentally sensitive sectors of power generation, infrastructure, and transportation.
  • Includes new rules that could prolong Trump’s polluting legacy: The deal’s “good regulatory practices” and sectoral rules would guarantee corporate polluters a different way – beyond ISDS – to challenge, delay, and weaken new environmental regulations. The binding rules – not found in any prior U.S. trade agreement – offer corporations opportunities to challenge proposed regulations before they are finalized, and to ask that existing regulations be “repealed.” These deregulatory rules could make it harder to reverse the Trump administration’s environmental rollbacks once Trump leaves office, which could extend his polluting legacy for years.
  • Encourages fracking: The deal preserves a bad NAFTA rule that, in combination with a bad U.S. law, effectively bars the U.S. government from determining whether gas exports to Mexico are in the public interest. This automatic gas export guarantee facilitates increased fracking in the U.S., expansion of cross-border gas pipelines, and growing dependency on climate-polluting gas in Mexico.
  • Offers a mixed outcome on tar sands oil: The “proportionality” rule in NAFTA that locks in tar sands oil extraction in Canada has been removed, granting Canada greater autonomy to transition to a clean energy economy – a welcome exception to a deal that otherwise favors fossil fuel firms. However, the deal includes new terms that would make it cheaper for oil corporations to export more Canadian tar sands oil through U.S. oil pipelines – a clear step backwards for our climate.

Taken From: https://www.sierraclub.org/trade/trump-s-nafta-deal-threatens-our-air-water-and-climate#

 

Without Fixes, We Must Oppose the New NAFTA

When the new NAFTA was signed, the AFL-CIO warned that we would oppose the agreement without major changes.

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As we said in our March 2019 Executive Council statement, the labor movement will mobilize to defeat the new NAFTA if it is not changed to “meaningfully address what is wrong with the original NAFTA.” We urged the Trump administration to incorporate the changes we have insisted must be made to reverse a legacy of lost jobs in the United States and lower living standards for working people throughout North America.

Unfortunately, to date, the administration has failed to offer sufficient workable solutions to fix the significant weaknesses we identified. We are hopeful that the current engagement with the House Democrats’ Trade Working Group will lead to progress, but we will oppose any agreement that undermines the interests of working people. In light of the administration’s plan to submit the new NAFTA for a vote this fall, we reiterate that if changes are not made, the labor movement will do everything in our power to defeat it.

In our March statement, we laid out a specific list of concerns we have repeated numerous times in both public statements and in private meetings with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. The list begins with the need to strengthen NAFTA’s labor standards and include new tools to facilitate their swift and effective enforcement. The agreement’s labor standards should be based explicitly on the relevant International Labor Organization Conventions, which include the freedom of association, collective bargaining, equal remuneration, prohibitions on child labor, forced labor and discrimination, rather than vague references to the principles that underlie those rights.

Changes to the text must also include the elimination of loopholes, which provide that a party must demonstrate a violation was committed through a “sustained or recurring course of action or inaction” and “in a manner affecting trade or investment between the parties.” This requirement has proved insurmountable in the only case ever to be arbitrated under the labor chapter of a U.S. free trade agreement, and it must be removed. In addition, the provisions on forced labor, discrimination and migrant workers are intentionally weak and must be strengthened. Specific language also should be added to ensure nondiscriminatory consumer information laws, such as Country of Origin Labeling, are not considered trade violations.

The agreement itself must contain effective enforcement tools, including the ability of the United States to deny entry of any goods produced in violation of the new labor standards. There is ample precedent for this in the Peru Free Trade Agreement, which permits the United States to block the importation of illegally harvested lumber. This would match the relief afforded to businesses that find their intellectual property rights violated. Without this enforcement tool, companies will continue to exploit workers and treat any lesser penalties, such as fines or the loss of tariff-free entry, as a cost of doing business.

The proposed labor chapter of the new NAFTA also includes important provisions that require Mexico to end corporatist unions and their protection contracts, recognize independent unions, and establish independent labor courts. We have made it clear that Mexico must demonstrate both the political will and the capacity to implement these reforms before it enjoys any benefits under the deal. Without these changes, the new NAFTA, like its predecessor, will continue to give global firms free rein to exploit workers in a race to the bottom.

Measurable progress must be made in all these areas before the agreement takes effect. Unfortunately, there are early indications that progress in Mexico will be slow or halted altogether. For example, incumbent protection unions have filed hundreds of constitutional challenges against the recent labor reforms, and injunctions have been granted in several cases already.

Another glaring failure of the new NAFTA is its treatment of pharmaceuticals. Under the agreement, the monopoly power of Big Pharma is further enhanced, harming consumers in the United States, Mexico and Canada. We have said from the beginning that this provision must be dropped, but to date we have seen no evidence that the administration intends to do so.

The administration also has exaggerated the benefits of its proposed rules of origin, which will need to be strengthened and applied to sectors beyond autos if they are to have any positive effect at all. For example, while the content requirement rises from 62.5% under the existing NAFTA to 75% under the new agreement, the details of the new calculation are unclear.  Further, the proposed rules only require that products be produced in North America, not in the United States, thus limiting the promised job benefits to America’s workers.

The new NAFTA does include a provision requiring that a percentage of content be produced by workers making $16 an hour—but requires that level be an average rather than a minimum, with the calculation including highly paid engineers and assembly workers. Many autos produced in Mexico already meet that threshold, as do most made in the United States, so the benefits may be limited. In addition, while the agreement covers steel and aluminum in autos, it does not require that all of the core components be produced in North America. As a result, auto parts produced from Chinese steel slabs could qualify for benefits.

Although the Mexican government prevents American rail employees from working in Mexico, U.S. officials last year allowed Mexican rail crews who do not meet U.S. safety rules to provide rail service 10 miles past our border. A new NAFTA must end this double standard and provide the same protections for American rail workers that their Mexican counterparts enjoy.

While President Donald Trump claims that the new NAFTA will stop outsourcing and create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the United States, the administration has provided no credible evidence to back that up. We are reminded that similar baseless claims were made when the original NAFTA was first negotiated and that other administrations have made the same empty promises when they presented similar FTAs to Congress. America’s workers are tired of being misled when it comes to the so-called benefits of corporate trade agreements.

Without incorporating the changes we have been advocating for all along, the new NAFTA would do little to stop the continued outsourcing of jobs in a wide range of industries, from aerospace and autos to food processing and call centers. As we said in March, it is possible to negotiate a trade agreement that lifts wages and living standards in all three countries. The agreement we have before us will not get us there. If the new NAFTA is not dramatically improved along the lines we have suggested, we will have no choice but to forcefully oppose it.

North American Trade Deal Must Be ‘Greatly Improved’: Top Democrat

Much work remains before Democrats will be ready to vote on a new North American trade pact, the speaker of the US House of Representatives said Thursday.

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“It has to be greatly improved in terms of enforcement,” Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, told reporters. “We think we’re making progress.”

Negotiations with President Donald Trump’s administration to improve guarantees for labor protections for Mexican workers — a key demand of US labor unions — are continuing but there is as yet no text to vote on, she said.

“Some of you are urging us to put it on the floor. There’s nothing to put on the floor. We don’t have a bill,” she added.

Pelosi said changes to enforcement provisions should be made within the text of the treaty itself, not in a “sidebar letter.”

“America’s working families are not served well by the repression of workers in other countries,” said Pelosi.

“It has to be enforcement within the agreement,” she said. “I think it is possible to do so.”

Nearly a year after it was signed by the United States, Canada and Mexico, the future of the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) — a revamp to the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement — hangs in doubt.

The effort to ratify the treaty is among competing priorities’ vying for Congress’s attention and comes ahead of a presidential election year, when Democrats will be leery of handing Trump a victory.

While Mexico has ratified the treaty and it has made progress in Canada, Democrats who control the House of Representatives say reforms for Mexican laborers, which are meant to protect US industry from exploitative competition, are so far insufficient.

According to media reports, late Wednesday US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer sent a detailed response, answering the concerns of a working group of lawmakers led by Pelosi — something which could help kick-start efforts to ratify the treaty.

“We’ve made an offer. They’ve made an offer, now we have to sit down,” said Pelosi.

Outside the Capitol on Thursday, Democratic and Republican House lawmakers joined farmers and farm lobby representatives in rallying for swift passage of the USMCA.

US farmers have borne the brunt of retaliation in Trump’s trade conflicts, losing export markets and facing higher tariffs in China and Europe that have caused sales of major crops like soybeans and corn to plummet.

This has put pressure on lawmakers from rural areas to demand the return of stable trading relations.

“We’re very close. I feel very confident that we’re going to get it done,” Representative Henry Cuellar, a Democrat representing a trade-dependent Texas district on the Mexican border, said during Thursday’s rally.

“Pelosi will put it for a vote.”

Taken From: https://www.ibtimes.com/north-american-trade-deal-must-be-greatly-improved-top-democrat-2826045

Trump Campaign Advisors Receive Over $2 Million in Trade Bailout Payments

Fifteen members of an agribusiness council that advised Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign have received $2.2 million from the federal bailout program for farmers hurt by the president’s trade war with China.

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Two months before Trump won the 2016 election, his campaign announced the formation of an Agriculture and Rural Advisory Committee. Designed to smooth over any misgivings farmers might have voting for a rich Manhattan playboy, the council was a who’s who of industrial agriculture luminaries.

The group’s founder and leader is Charles Herbster, a Nebraska farmer, rancher and CEO of an agricultural products company. During the campaign, Herbster told Politico the group’s focus would be fundraising and mobilizing rural voters. In a set of talking points distributed by the committee, a topline message to farmers was “If you want a more predictable and profitable future, your choice is straight forward – you must vote for Donald Trump for President.”

Since Trump entered the White House, nothing has been predictable for American farmers. But for 15 members of the advisory council, Trump’s trade war has brought more than $2 million in Market Facilitation Payments, the Department of Agriculture program for farmers whose access to the Chinese market has been cut off by the president’s tariffs.

EWG obtained data on the payments from USDA through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Market Facilitation Payments to Trump’s Ag Campaign Advisors

Name, Farm Location Position Payment
John J. Armstrong Muscota, Kan. Kansas Wheat Commission member $80,026
Michael D. Brandenburg  Edgely, N.D. State representative, North Dakota $118,106
John S. Dalrymple III Casselton, N.D. Governor, North Dakota, 2010-2016 $256,668
Rodney L. Davis Florissant, Mo. U.S. representative (R-Ill.), House Agriculture Commission $1,034
Steve L. Foglesong Astoria, Ill. Former president, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association $14,612
Ronald Ray Heck Perry, Iowa Past president, American Soybean Association $168,147
Charlotte Kelley Burlison, Tenn.  Cotton grower, former county Republican Party chair $874,842
Ted A. McKinney Tipton, Ind. Under secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs, USDA $6,308
Jim Moseley Clarks Hill, Ind. Former deputy secretary, USDA $15,624
Jim L. Reese Nardin, Okla. Former Oklahoma secretary of agriculture $21,300
Marcus Rust Remington, Ind. CEO, Rose Acre Farms, second largest egg producer in U.S. $54,058
Leslie Rutledge Marion, Ark. (wife of recipient Boyce Johnson ) Arkansas attorney general $35,780
Kip Tom Leesburg, Ind. U.S. ambassador to U.N. Agencies for Food and Agriculture $509,342
Steve Wellman Syracuse, Neb. Director, Nebraska Department of Agriculture $41,022
Walt Whitcomb Waldo, Maine Former Maine agriculture commissioner $2,904
Total $2,199,773

Source: EWG, from USDA data obtained via the Freedom of Information Act

Among the Trump campaign advisors receiving MFP payments is Kip Tom, who is one of the largest corn, soybean and seed growers in Indiana. Last year Trump appointed him the Rome-based ambassador to the United Nations for food and agriculture. Toms Farms Partners, one of his businesses, received $509,000 in MFP payments.

Among other notable members of the advisory committee:

  • Charlotte Kelly, who owns a 14,000-acre Tennessee cotton farm, received $874,000 in MFP payments.
  • Jack Dalrymple, a wheat and soybean farmer who was the Republican governor of North Dakota from 2010 to 2016, received $256,668 in payments.
  • Ron Heck of Iowa, past president of the American Soybean Association, received $168,147.
  • North Dakota state Rep. Mike Brandenburg, whose farms grow wheat, corn and soybeans, received $118,106.

Billions of dollars in MFP payments have also flowed into the bank accounts of “city slickers” who live in the nation’s largest cities and mega-farms owned by America’s richest farmers ­– not to small struggling family farmers and minority farmers.

One of the Trump ag council’s campaign talking points was “A Trump administration will change things. You will have the government off your back and out of your pocket.”

A trade war that has cut off many growers from their most important market is hardly getting government off farmers’ backs. And $2 million in bailouts? The government is definitely in these advisory council members’ pockets.

Taken from: https://www.ewg.org/agmag/2019/08/trump-campaign-advisors-receive-over-2-million-trade-bailout-payments

Investors urge “no” vote on revised NAFTA agreement

DATE: 

Sep 12th 2019

Citing concerns that NAFTA 2.0 will expand prescription drug monopoly protections and drive up drug prices by thwarting competition, investors urge lawmakers to vote ‘no’ on current agreement.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

NEW YORK, NY, THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 12TH, 2019 – Members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) sent a letter to the U.S. Congress today urging a “no” vote on the renegotiated version of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), citing concerns that the current agreement contains provisions locking in extended monopoly rights for pharmaceutical companies and furthering the trend of unsustainably high drug prices.

The revised NAFTA agreement requires signatory governments to guarantee pharmaceutical corporations various means to extend the duration of their 20-year patent monopolies, which would delay the sale of cheaper generic versions of medicines.

“Currently, one in seven Americans cannot take their medications because the cost is too high,” said Kathryn McCloskey, Director of Social Responsibility for United Church Funds. “In its current form, the revised NAFTA threatens to increase drug prices and delay patient access to more affordable generic and biosimilar medicine, further exacerbating the current crisis of affordability in the U.S.”

ICCR members engage some of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies to promote the increased access and affordability of medicines. They argue that the NAFTA agreement would impose new barriers to the development of lower-cost medicines and incentivize a shift away from the core industry mission of addressing the world’s most pressing health issues via innovation and development of new life-saving medicines.

Of additional concern are the Agreement’s proposed concessions to manufacturers of biologic drugs. The revised NAFTA would lock the U.S. into a regime that keeps cancer and other cutting-edge biologic prices excessively high, while exporting the model to Mexico, which does not provide any additional exclusivity period for biologics, and Canada, which now only has an eight-year period.

“As long-term investors in the pharmaceutical industry, faith- and values-based investors are concerned that NAFTA 2.0 provides continued incentives to specialty drug companies to pursue unsustainable business strategies that further delay competition, and are based on drug price increases, rather than the development of new life-saving medicines,” said Meg Jones-Monteiro, ICCR’s Program Director for Health Equity. The U.S. should not be exporting its bad policies elsewhere.”

The proposed NAFTA 2.0 (referred to by the Trump administration as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement) was signed by the three countries late last year. All three must ratify the agreement, but so far only Mexico’s legislature has done so.  The Trump administration is pushing for swift approval, and the deal could be put to a vote in the House at any time. And while Speaker Pelosi has not yet set a specific timeline for the vote, a vote by the end of the year seems likely. The House Democratic caucus has thus far delayed voting, expressing concern that the deal will raise drug costs for Americans.

The White House can now submit implementing legislation to Congress, and under “fast-track” rules for voting on trade agreements, the House would have to hold a vote within 60 days. The Senate would then need to vote within 30 days.

Canadian investors have similar concerns.

“As Canadian investors in the U.S. pharmaceutical industry we rely on companies to add value for investors and patients globally. NAFTA 2.0 includes provisions that would hurt patients across borders and require that Canada amends laws that currently keep drugs affordable for Canadians,” said Rosa van den Beemt, Senior ESG Manager at NEI Investments. “It would also create barriers that we believe prevent healthy competition in the pharmaceutical market.”

In January of this year, ICCR was a signatory to a Congressional letter written by a coalition of groups representing healthcare providers, public health experts and people of faith, warning that the proposed NAFTA 2.0 would undermine efforts to expand access to affordable medicines.

Investors say it is critical that members of Congress retain the right to enact reforms to lower prescription drug prices, including by modifying biologic exclusivity to address health care budgets and the deficit. They are continuing to urge legislators to pursue domestic drug pricing reforms that would promote competition, curb monopoly abuses, and leverage government negotiating power.

CONTACT:

Susana McDermott
Director of Communications
Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility
212-870-2938
smcdermott@iccr.org

About the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR)
Celebrating its 49th year, ICCR is the pioneer coalition of shareholder advocates who view the management of their investments as a catalyst for social change. Its 300 member organizations comprise faith communities, socially responsible asset managers, unions, pensions, NGOs and other socially responsible investors with combined assets of over $500 billion. ICCR members engage hundreds of corporations annually in an effort to foster greater corporate accountability. www.iccr.org

 

 

Taken From: https://www.iccr.org/investors-urge-no-vote-revised-nafta-agreement?fbclid=IwAR1mF9DX0NlLEcfouRkRPO0DgQ6xUAE6MIbb50OmNXMePnj4KKKLEQgGWcc

Letter from Max Rose to PSFC

Thank you for meeting with my office regarding the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) renegotiations. I appreciate hearing from you about this important issue. 

Screen Shot 2019-09-13 at 8.40.28 AMAs a strong supporter of labor unions, I understand the tremendous impact that trade agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement have had on working Americans. I share your concerns for the rights of workers to organize in labor unions and collectively bargain for better working conditions, wages, and protections, as well as your concerns about access to affordable, life-saving drugs.

It is vital that before Congress votes on a new agreement with Canada and Mexico, we ensure the legislative language is strong enough to hold all parties accountable in maintaining strong labor standards. If the American worker is not able to compete on a level playing field, it will not only cost us economic benefits, but justifiably impact the faith the working class has in our government’s ability to look out for their interests. 

Our relationship with our neighboring countries should not be a race-to-the-bottom, but rather a collective effort to ensure the best interests of our citizens. The current agreement fails to provide the necessary infrastructure and resources that will ensure compliance on labor standards. 

Additionally, any new agreement must contain provisions that protect the health and wellbeing of American citizens. The proposed USMCA protects pharmaceutical companies that develop biologics from cheaper competition for ten years, which is longer than the five years they have monopoly power in Mexico and the eight years of exclusivity in Canada. 

Thus, the USMCA gives more power to charge higher prices for longer and will have harmful consequences for patients. These provisions will enable pharmaceutical companies to impose exorbitant prices for life-saving drugs, which threatens my constituents in dire need of treatment. I oppose this clause and joined my Congressional colleagues in signing onto a letter to Ambassador Robert Lighthizer, United States Trade Representative, urging him to include medicine provisions that will benefit American patients, not harm them.

Thank you again for coming in. I welcome your thoughts and I look forward to continuing to hear from you.  I also encourage you to regularly visit my website at http://maxrose.house.gov, where you can find up-to-date information on my work on behalf of our community and sign up for my e-newsletter.

Thank you,

Max Rose

Centrist ‘New Democrats’ demand for quick vote on ‘New NAFTA’ irks Machinists

WASHINGTON (PAI)—A demand by 14 representatives who style themselves “new Democrats” for a quick House up-or-down vote on Donald Trump’s “new NAFTA” has irked the Machinists, one of the Trump pact’s staunchest foes.

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And the so-called “new Dems” may not get their way, either. That’s because the leader of the eight-person Democratic team negotiating over legislation to implement the controversial so-called “free trade” pact told her hometown paper during the recent congressional recess that the new NAFTA won’t come up this year.

Machinists President Bob Martinez sent the union’s letter on Sept. 9 to the lawmakers after he learned of their prior demand to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

In their missive to Pelosi, the 14, led by Rep. Colin Allred, D-Texas, supported the talks Pelosi’s bargaining team are holding with top Trump trade negotiator Robert Lighthizer.

But they warned “it is imperative we reach a negotiated agreement early in the fall” and vote “by the end of the year.”

Veteran pro-worker lawmaker Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., an outspoken foe of prior anti-worker “free trade” pacts and a renowned “nose counter” among her colleagues, leads the bargainers. She’s already told interviewers for one of her hometown papers in Connecticut that a vote—if there is one—won’t occur till next year.

Who are the “New Democrats”?

Martinez, in his letter to Allred and the other pro-NAFTA Democrats, says there shouldn’t be a vote until the “new NAFTA” is drastically rewritten to help workers, not corporate interests.

“NAFTA 2.0 will foster the continuing outsourcing of U.S. jobs to Mexico, as companies seek to take advantage of workers who do not enjoy fundamental rights.

“Strong and enforceable labor standards, which are missing from the agreement, must be included in its text. Other provisions that would remove the incentive to outsource U.S. manufacturing jobs must be addressed.

“In aerospace and related industries alone, thousands of jobs that could have been created in the U.S. are now contributing to more than 40,000 jobs that have been created in Mexico.”

Martinez explained the “new NAFTA’s” labor chapter, which is actually part of the agreement’s text, is still weak. He said it’s been copied from the current U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement, another weak “free trade” pact.

He also said the new NAFTA will still deny Mexican workers basic rights, including the right to organize, collectively bargain, and “be free from child labor and forced labor.”

“We can do better. We must do better,” Martinez wrote the lawmakers.

Organized labor, in general, has made those same points to Pelosi, DeLauro, other lawmakers, and Lighthizer. Though Trump is also pushing for a “new NAFTA” vote—on the implementing legislation, not the pact itself—by the end of this year, DeLauro’s statement and labor’s opposition appear to put that goal in doubt.

Besides Allred, Martinez’s letter went to Democratic Reps. Scott Peters, Kendra Horn, Haley Stevens, Anthony Brindisi, Joe Cunningham, Lizzie Fletcher, Ben McAdams, Josh Harder, T.J. Cox, Luis Correa, Sharice Davids, Susie Lee, and Greg Stanton.

Taken From: https://www.peoplesworld.org/article/centrist-new-democrats-demand-for-quick-vote-on-new-nafta-irks-machinists/

Bad news for parents: Trump’s trade war with China will hit back-to-school supplies

Some of the standard student gear and supplies are on the list

green and gray scissors

Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi on Pexels.com

Parents suffering sticker shock on back-to-school spending this fall better brace themselves — the latest round of Chinese tariffs are likely to make next year’s shopping spree even more expensive.

A new round of 15% tariffs went into effect Sunday on $112 billion in Chinese goods. Some of the standards in back-to-school equipment and accessories are on the latest list. They include pencils and crayons, sneakers, boys’ and girls’ overcoats and windbreakers, calendars, and ball-point pens.

Prices on those items aren’t expected to go up immediately, because the items in stores now were shipped months ago, but shoppers could feel the pinch at the start of next school year, Bethany Aronhalt, a National Retail Federation spokeswoman, told MarketWatch.

“Unfortunately, American families could see higher prices in the coming months and throughout the school year as the impact of the tariffs works through the supply chain and companies have no choice but to pass along costs to consumers,” Aronhalt added. “Small businesses in particular won’t be able to absorb the cost and will be forced to raise prices.”

President Trump’s trade war with China will add yet another layer of costs for many families who are already getting squeezed by day-care costs and extracurricular activities. In May, Federal Reserve Bank of New York economists said American families would spend an extra $831 annually because of tariffs on Chinese imports.

Those calculations focused on the earlier tariff hike from 15% to 25% for imported Chinese goods worth $200 billion, impacting everything from livestock and produce to textiles and chemicals. The current tariffs extend to approximately 69% of all consumer goods. The previous tariffs will likely affect soaps, deodorants, electronics and raw materials for some toys.

Families have already been contending with increased prices on back-to-school gear due to old-fashioned inflation and the usual annual price hikes. Families will spend a record $691 on school supplies this year, according to National Retail Federation estimates. That’s up from $685 last year and exceeds $689 in 2012, the previous record, according to the NRF.

Overall, families with children from kindergarten to 12th grade are projected to spend $26.2 billion on back-to-school supplies, less than the $27.5 billion spent last year, despite the price hikes, but that’s because fewer families said they had kids between elementary and high-school age.

Sports apparel and sneaker makers Nike NKE, +1.53%  and Under ArmourUAA, +3.02%   could not be immediately reached for comment. Likewise, spokespeople for the crayon maker Crayola and VF Corporation VFC, +1.56%, the company that owns brands like JanSport, Eastpak and The North Face, could not be immediately reached for comment.

Taken From: https://www.marketwatch.com/story/bad-news-for-parents-trumps-trade-war-with-china-will-hit-back-to-school-supplies-2019-09-03?reflink=MW_GoogleNews

Mexico’s move toward food self-sufficiency confronts GMOs

Amidst various news cycles of absurd demands and hateful reactions in the U.S., I was recently struck by some hopeful news of civility and constructive engagement from Mexico.

corn_11152018getty

Adelita San Vicente Tello, director of the non-governmental organization Semillas de Vida (Seeds of Life) and a leader in the Mexican Sin Maíz No Hay País (No Corn, No Country) campaign, wrote to say that she would be moving on from her organization to take a position in the progressive López Obrador administration.

This is exciting news for several reasons. To start, in June, more than 200 Mexican scientists, campesino, indigenous, student and other civil society leaders (including Dr. San Vicente) sent a letter to President Andrés Manuel López Obrador insisting that he issue a presidential decree to establish a comprehensive biosafety policy to protect native varieties of corn and other key crops. They proposed that the decree require signs in the 26,000 Diconsa public stores explaining that corn sold there should only be eaten and not planted so as not to contaminate native corn; prohibit permits for planting GMO seeds, including those produced through new gene editing techniques; establish a moratorium on U.S. corn imports as these protections are phased in, as well as sterilizing or grinding imported corn to prevent its use as seeds; conduct systematic monitoring of GMOs and expansion of scientific facilities in the Agriculture Ministry to detect them; improve research on biosecurity and food safety issues related to GMOs; and develop new regulations in the Environment Ministry on these issues.

The groups also propose that the Mexican Congress develop comprehensive reforms to the Law of Biosafety of Genetically Modified Organisms to protect native species and support enforcement of commitments in the Convention of Biodiversity Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and recommendations made by the North American Commission on Environmental Cooperation in 2004.

These demands are part of a continuing dialogue with the government on the best ways to reform the country’s farm system. In his inaugural speech on December 1, President López Obrador listed one hundred commitments, including achieving self-sufficiency in basic grains and doing so without opening up the country to planting GMOs.

In her note, Dr. San Vicente explained that, as a speaker in a recent public conference, she had challenged the government’s lack of action on rules on GMOs to protect the country’s biological and cultural heritage. Rather than dismissing or ignoring her complaint, she was invited to take over as Director of Primary Goods and Natural Resources in the Ministry of the Environment, charged with developing the rules to resolve that problem. The fact that the Ministry is now led by Víctor Manuel Toledo, a prominent biologist and outspoken ecologist, is also cause for optimism.

To be clear, Mexico continues to rely on massive imports of corn and other grains from the U.S., nearly all of which is genetically modified. That corn is mostly used in animal feed, as an input in the complex North American meat and feed supply chain, but consumers also use field corn as an ingredient in tortillas and other food. Planting of GMO corn and other crops is currently prohibited through legal actions, but there are documented cases of genetic contamination of Mexican corn throughout the country. As the birthplace of corn and the origin of dozens of local varieties, corn plays an important role in the country’s cultural heritage, biodiversity and food security.

I spoke to Malin Jönsson, the new Coordinator of Semillas de Vida, to learn more about the initiative on biosafety. She explained that the government is required to issue a response within 90 days. In the meantime, civil society groups will be engaging with members of the Mexican Congress (which began its new session on September 1) to follow up with new laws on these and other emerging issues.

In addition to legislative changes, Semillas de Vida is seeking ways to enhance ties between farmers and consumers, so that consumers recognize the value and qualities of locally produced landrace [heirloom] corn and are thus willing to pay fair prices for those goods. She told me, “One of the main threats confronting local corn varieties, especially in the context of trade liberalization, is the low prices paid to farmers. Increasing the demand for landrace corn by spreading information about its nutritional, cultural, traditional, historical and biological value is vital to increase demand and open up new niche markets. The goal is to diminish the gap between farmers and consumers, increasing the prices paid to farmers and providing consumers secure access to healthy, culturally appropriate food.”

None of this will be easy. Pro-GMO groups issued their own response countering the June letter, insisting that the measures it proposes are “uninformed, anti-democratic and impractical.” In addition, under the rules of the new North American Free Trade Agreement (the new NAFTA, also known as the United States Mexico Canada Agreement/USMCA), countries must streamline rules on approval of genetically modified or edited products of agricultural biotechnology, with the goal that products approved in one county would be approved for use in others. The new NAFTA also sets rules on so-called Low-Level Presence of GMOs in imports, making it more difficult for local authorities to reject imports of shipments contaminated with unapproved GMOs. And its new chapter on Good Regulatory Practices opens to door for companies in all three countries to weaken and delay any new or existing environmental or public health rules they find bothersome, potentially including these ambitious new plans. Under pressure from the U.S. on a variety of fronts, the Mexican Senate approved the new NAFTA in June. Approval is still pending in Canada and the U.S., where many legislators and civil society groups are insisting that no vote occur until the agreement is substantially changed.

The new NAFTA also requires that parties ratify the 1991 version of the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV 91). That convention requires intellectual property protections for plants for 20 to 25 years and stops farmers and breeders from exchanging protected seeds. The previous version of the treaty, which Mexico has already ratified, provides an exception for small scale farmers; the 1991 version eliminates that option. Mexico agreed to join UPOV 91 within four years when it ratified the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), but it seems much more likely that the U.S. would demand the implementation of those protections on behalf of U.S. agribusinesses than that other trading partners in the CPTPP would do so.

Despite these potential obstacles, the plans to develop a food and farm system that works for Mexico, one that aims to achieve food self-sufficiency without sacrificing the country’s biodiversity and cultural heritage, is part of an unfolding, active and very public debate. While there are encouraging signs of new ideas on fair and sustainable food systems now in the U.S., in Mexico, the hard work of making those kinds of ideas real has already begun.

Taken From: https://www.iatp.org/blog/201909/mexicos-move-toward-food-self-sufficiency-confronts-gmos