NAFTA 2: U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA) No Bargain
There has been almost no coverage of the details of this issue in the bourgeois press. The Trumpists are heralding this as some great deal for the working class. It is not. The corporate liberals don’t care, as they sense it is following well on the heels of their revered NAFTA I. Here is a summary of some left comments on the ‘new’ NAFTA from various journals and websites:
1. NAFTA 2 No Relief for Workers - Counterpunch (Laura Carsen): While enthusiastically approved by the Wall Street Journal and Fox News, the ‘new’ NAFTA / USMCA is not a brand new deal. It retains text from the old NAFTA and the TPP. There are some gains on paper, but no guarantee they will be enforced. The USMCA strengthens the corporate hand in the area of monopoly intellectual property. It eliminates secret tribunals by corporations over limitations of profits but they can still resort to regular courts. ‘Exploitation’ has been recognized as an unfair labor practice, but not once in 24 years did the previous NAFTA ‘labor side agreement’ result in any sanctions. ‘Cooperation and consultation’ are the methods in this agreement too. Rights related to gender, indigenous people, consumers or labor are all voluntary. As they say, toothless.
No wage floor was set, but the right to organize a union was agreed to, along with prohibiting fake company unions and company contracts by Mexican employers. However, nothing in the agreement prohibits companies from moving plants to Mexico. Presently a typical Mexican auto worker earned $83.00 in a 72-hour week after deductions. There is a ‘labor content clause’ for autos, defining that 75% of a car (up from 62%) must be made in the country it is to be sold in, with 30% of that at a $16 an hour minimum. But the Mexican auto industry trade group is not worried and says this will not change Mexican wages or content! This clause seems to be limited to Canada and the U.S…
There is nothing in the agreement on labor mobility, thus enshrining ‘illegality’ as the context of much cheap labor migration into the U.S. Nor does it prohibit the continuing decimation of small Mexican agriculture by U.S. or Canadian farm products. Any corporation from each country can access resources or labor in any other country. The agreement still limits the power of local bodies like states or cities or provinces to do anything about issues they disagree with. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss!
2. Fooled Again on “Free Trade” – Counterpunch (Pete Dolack): This is a document by and for multi-nationals, according to Dolack. As to the helpful elimination of the ISDS secret tribunals, it still retains this language: “No party shall expropriate or nationalize a covered investment either directly or indirectly through measures equivalent to expropriation or nationalization.” This clause has been oddly used to oppose local laws against food or environmental safety or local content. Another clause says: “when a Party considers that a benefit it could reasonably be expected to accrue to it” is breached, then it can also sue. Again, corporations can sue for reduced profits.
The phrase ‘customary international law’ in the agreement is also used to favor corporate profits. For instance in August, a U.S. federal judge ruled that a Canadian gold company can seize control of the Venezuelan state oil company’s U.S. subsidiary, Citgo, because their gold mine in Venezuela was nationalized. The Permanent Court in the Hague recently ruled against Ecuador and for Chevron in their toxic oil waste dispute in the Amazon, saying that Ecuador had to pay Chevron! So ‘regular courts’ will still accommodate these corporations. They don’t need a secret tribunal.
Protections for anyone but corporations is couched in voluntary terms, while anything related to corporations is couched in the terms ‘shall’ and ‘must.’ Chapter 15 includes a prohibition of ANY restrictions on financial firms, while Chapter 20 “grants pharmaceutical companies their full wish list.” The latter relates to generics. This is another neo-liberal document favoring big capital.
3. “Why Trump’s NAFTA 2.0 Is a Win for Big Oil – But a Huge Loss for Workers and the Environment” Independent Media Institute (Benjamin Dangl) – Food & Water Watch head Wenonah Hauter said:
1. “The [USMCA] has giant giveaways to the agrochemical industry that paves the way for unregulated gene-edited GMOs, rolls back Mexico’s regulation of GMOs, and lets chemical giants like Monsanto and Dow keep the data on the safety of their pesticides secret for 10 years.”
2. “The energy provisions will encourage more pipelines and exports of natural gas and oil that would further expand fracking in the United States and Mexico.”
3. “The text also provides new avenues for polluters to challenge and try and roll back proposed environmental safeguards, cementing Trump’s pro-polluter agenda in the trade deal.”
Regarding intellectual property, copyright time limits are extended to 75 years, while internet IP violations can now be dealt with by an easy ‘notice and take down’ rule. The patents for biologic drugs will extended from 8 to 10 years, increasing drug prices and blocking generics longer.
4. “Here’s Who Wins and Loses From Changes in NAFTA” The Conversation (Atif Kubursi) – Canadian dairy farmers lose some market share, while part of the Canadian dairy pricing system is eliminated, allowing U.S. farmers to undercut Canadian dairy farmers. In exchange, the Trumpian threat of tariffs on Canadian automobiles was removed. Patent and trade mark protection for biotech, financial services and domain names have been increased.
5. “Trump’s New NAFTA Would Drive Up Drug Prices” Truthout (Mike Ludwig) – The AFL-CIO has not supported the new NAFTA. There is no mention of climate change in the agreement. Pharmaceutical monopolies can maintain their prices if they just use or administer the drugs in slightly different ways. The language on intellectual property was imported wholesale from the TPP. Secret USMCA tribunals (not normal courts) have a carve-out and can still be used for telecom and energy firms operating in Mexico. (!)
6. “Revised NAFTA Shows Every Sign of Being Another Trump Scam” Counterpunch (Pete Dolack) - The agreement has added intellectual property enforcement of: “cam-cording of movies,” “cable signal theft,” as well as “Broad protection against trade secret theft.” “IP rules” in the agreement “also prohibit regulations against cross-border transfers of data.” Most importantly, it guarantees no restrictions on “U.S. financial service providers,” which will allow Wall Street to further control Mexico and parts of Canadian economy. The Sierra Club has said that NAFTA II negotiators want to explicitly lock-in the deregulation of oil and gas. This comes out in language about required Mexican / Canadian / U.S. ‘regulatory cooperation,’ which means the lowest common dominator country – the U.S. – can dictate to the others. Canada suggested many progressive additions to this agreement, and most were shot down.
Prior reviews on other periodicals: “Lapham’s Quartlery,” “Jacobin,” “Monthly Review,” “Socialist Revolution,” “Labor Notes,” “Granta.” Prior reviews of labor issues: “Reviving the Strike,” “Embedded With Organized Labor,” “Save Out Unions,” “On New Terrain,” “Class Against Class.” Use blog search box, upper left.
And I bought Counterpunch at May Day’s excellent magazine section!
December 31, 2018
New Year or New Tears?