The third round of renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement just concluded, and it’s still uncertain whether U.S. negotiators are going to demand the elimination of the contentious NAFTA provision that give big corporations vast powers making it easier for these corporations to offshore jobs and to attack the environmental and consumer safety laws on which all Americans rely on.
NAFTA’s self-styled “Investor-State Dispute Settlement” section gives multinational corporations the power to sue governments in front of a tribunal of three corporate lawyers. These lawyers can order taxpayers to pay the corporations unlimited sums of money, including for the loss of expected future profits, bringing back “taxation without representation” that our forefathers fought so hard to eliminate.
Corporations only need to convince these lawyers that a law defending public health, workplace safety or the environment violates their so-called extraordinary NAFTA rights. The corporate lawyers’ decisions are not subject to appeal.
Current NAFTA language gives big corporations carte-blanche to move jobs to where workers are the most exploited and environmental regulations are the weakest. It also usurps democratically enacted public interest laws.
According to one of the more conservative estimates, Wisconsin has already lost 75,000 jobs to offshoring because NAFTA was enacted in its current form, including a perfect example of this plight here in La Crosse – the closing of La Crosse Footwear facility. It’s long past time to end NAFTA provisions that promote offshoring. Ron Kind should demand U.S. trade negotiators do just that.
Western Wisconsin AFL-CIO