For too long, U.S. trade policy has benefited transnational corporations at the expense of workers’ rights, consumer safety and the environment at home and abroad. The Washington Fair Trade Coalition, working closely with local, national, and international partners, aims to build a new model of trade, a model that supports our communities and our world. What could that look like? Read on…
The 75 member organizations of the Washington Fair Trade Coalition have highlighted four guiding principles in the creation of a new approach to globalization:
- The goal of trade is to improve living standards everywhere – not maximum possible trade; not lower prices.
- All stakeholders must be involved in any new negotiations process, and public interest must be taken seriously
- Policies must prioritize labor rights, human rights, public health, food security, and the environment, in particular taking on the two defining problems of our time: climate change and inequality
- National and local strategies are legitimate and necessary. Trade policy should encourage local innovation and decision-making.
What might that look like in detail? Over the next year we will be conducting listening tours, and coordinating with national and international allies, to draft up principles of what we need to see in a new approach to globalization.
You can get a glimpse of what might be coming by reading about the TRADE ACT, a marker bill introduced in 2012, which laid out some of our priorities at the time.
The TRADE ACT: What Was It?
In 2012, after extensive consultation with workers, environmental groups, health advocates, and other public interest groups, Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio introduced the 21st Century Trade and Market Access Act (S. 3347) laying out a vision for trade policy that balances profits with people and the environment, and a system of accountability that would have allowed the President negotiating powers while reasserting Congressional and public oversight of the process. At that point, we were two years into negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership and hopes were still high that we could learn from the mistakes of past NAFTA-style trade agreements and build a new international consensus around trade policy for the 21st Century.
Unfortunately, over the next three years U.S. trade negotiators continued to ignore the voices of civil society and the agreement was kept under strict secrecy, and the public was reduced to occasional Wikileaks to learn what was being proposed in our names. In November of 2015, when the agreement was finalized and made public, our fears were confirmed: instead of the 21st century trade agreement we were promised, the TPP would be a massive, nearly-permanent extension of failed NAFTA-style policies.
With the re-authorization of the undemocratic Fast Track process in June 2015 (thank you Rep. Smith, Rep. McDermott, and Rep. Heck for opposing this legislation), we were left with no way to make the TPP better. Our only option was to vote down the TPP and start over right. TPP was tabled indefinitely in November 2016. It’s time to roll up our sleeves and get back to work on creating the kind of trade policies that raise all of us up.
TRADE ACT: What was in it? :
This bill, introduced in 2012, served as a model of what kinds of labor rights, environmental protections, food safety and other trade provisions we were advocating for in any completed trade agreement, while also establishing commonsense compliance reporting mechanisms and the streamlining of trade and export promotion activities in order to maximize the job creation potential of U.S. trade agreements.
- Labor: Countries must adopt into domestic law and effectively enforce the International Labor Organization’s core labor standards. Failure to do so subjects parties to dispute resolution and enforcement mechanisms that are at least as stringent as those for commercial claims.
- Environment: Countries are prohibited from eliminating, weakening or failing to enforce domestic environmental protections for trade purposes. Trade in illegally-harvested resources is banned. Countries must fully implement and enforce all multilateral environmental agreements to which they are party. Failure to do so is subject to dispute resolution and enforcement.
- Consumer Safety: Food, feed and all consumer products may only be imported into the U.S. if they meet or exceed U.S. safety standards. The FDA and CPSC are instructed to review the regulations of trading partners and ensure that products entering the U.S. meet their requirement.
- Services: Trade agreements cannot be used to require privatization or deregulation of services.
- Investment: Countries maintain the right to regulate foreign investment according to their own priorities, and to place restrictions on speculative capital. Foreign investors must not be given greater rights than domestic investors, and the concepts “investor,” “investment,” “expropriation” and “national treatment” are all clarified to protect governments’ ability to regulate.
- Procurement: Procurement provisions in trade agreements must not undermine prevailing wage, recycled content, sustainable harvest, renewable energy or human rights policies or project labor agreements. Procurement obligations cannot apply to local governments, and only to states that specifically agree.
- Intellectual Property: Drug patenting requirements must not undermine the access to medicine standards set in the Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health, and patents on traditional knowledge must be consistent with the Convention on Biological Diversity. Internet service providers may not be generally obligated to monitor electric information that they transmit or store.
- Agriculture: Countries are allowed to develop strategic agricultural reserves and enact policies allowing for fair remuneration for growers and farm workers. Countries may maintain anti-dumping policies and U.S. anti-trust laws cannot be preempted.
- State-Owned Enterprises: Requires that countries party to a trade agreement report annually on state-owned enterprises that invest or conduct operations in other countries party to the agreement. Prohibits countries from giving subsidies or other benefits to these enterprises that provide a competitive advantage.
Additional provisions on reporting and compliance:
Section 3 (Presidential Report):
Requires the President to make findings to Congress on a country’s form of government, labor standards, environmental standards, religious freedoms, human trafficking and currency manipulation prior to initiating trade negotiations with it (and within 30 days of the bill’s enactment for any existing negotiations)
Section 4 (Market Assessment): Requires the U.S. International Trade Commission to assess the market access potential of any country prior to the President initiating trade negotiations with it (and within 30 days of the bill’s enactment for any existing negotiations)
Section 5 (Access Commitments): Requires the U.S. Trade Representative to report annually to Congress on the market access commitments of countries with which the U.S. has trade agreements and how those obligations have been or will be met
Section 6 (Policymaking): A Sense-of-the-Congress provision that describes criteria for trade policymaking procedures that should replace Fast Track.
Section 7 (Standards): Sets mandatory criteria for what must and must not be included in trade agreements regarding labor, the environment, product safety, agriculture, public services, government procurement, investment, intellectual property, anti-dumping, dispute resolution, national security, states’ rights and more.
Section 8 (Coordination): Amends the Export Enhancement Act of 1988 to improve coordination of export enhancement activities among federal agencies
Section 9 (Resource Allocation): Amends the Export Enhancement Act of 1988 to mandate a global assessment of the Foreign Commercial Service and redeploy personnel and other
resources based on the assessment
Section 10 (Diplomacy): Amends the Foreign Service Act of 1980 in order to expand diplomatic efforts to reduce barriers to increased U.S. exports