Results tagged “NAFTA” from PlanetGreen.org

82 Days In, and the Swamp's as Deep as Ever

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Swamp.pngWhen Donald Trump was elected to the presidency last November, voters were willing to take a chance on a political outsider in the hopes that he might take a stand against endemic corruption and inefficiency of the federal government. However, after eighty-two days, very few of his campaign pledges have actually been honored:

1. The Repeal of Obamacare
After the American Health Care Act debacle, the White House has apparently reached a detente with the rampant oligopoly established by Obamacare. While this inaction may effectively prove a political point - that the current bureaucracy cannot be sustained and will inevitably collapse if left in place - it does nothing to remedy the current situation faced by millions of Americans whose premiums have skyrocketed and who are forced either to pay exorbitant rates to monopolistic insurance providers or go on public assistance. By deciding to do nothing while citizens continue to suffer the consequences, Trump has reneged on one of the most vital planks of his platform.

2. Withholding Funds from Sanctuary Cities
Every year, billions of taxpayer dollars go to fund the municipal governments of so-called "sanctuary cities," which purposefully ignore federal immigration rules in order to harbor illegal immigrants. These localities routinely refuse to punish any crimes committed by illegal entrants into the country, often releasing the perpetrators back into society without requiring any expiation for deeds ranging from drug possession to domestic violence. Trump consistently denounced sanctuary cities throughout the 2016 campaign, but has failed to stem the flow of U.S. dollars to support their defiance of U.S. laws.

3. Condemning China's Currency Manipulation
China's intentional devaluation of the yuan has resulted in sharp trade imbalances which are highly deleterious to U.S. manufacturers and workers, by making Chinese imports cost less in the United States than American exports cost in China. Just today, though, the President has announced that he will not be honoring his promise to officially designate China as a currency manipulator and exert international influence to curb their practices. This will effectively eliminate any chance that domestic industries could begin to compete with cheap foreign labor on the world stage.

4. Build that Wall
This was one of Donald Trump's most iconic commitments: to construct a wall along the Mexican border to deter illegal immigrants. However, the anticipated cost of this project has steadily risen since he took office, and it is becoming increasingly unlikely that it will actually be completed using American labor and at a price that remains lower than the benefits for U.S. citizens. Furthermore, the federal agencies tasked with working out the details of this undertaking have merely proposed a fence of the type already existing - without results - along much of our southern border.

5. Bring Jobs Back
Almost immediately after taking office, the President did officially reject the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, thereby eliminating an additional threat to the American workforce. But since then, Trump has done nearly nothing to repeal existing free trade agreements or counteract the influx of goods from China - even facilitating the latter practice with his decision not to take action against currency manipulation. The attempt to renegotiate NAFTA has also been repeatedly stalled, leaving American citizens wondering when or if their Chief Executive will decisively protect their livelihoods from rampant outsourcing.

A New Tariff in Town? Not a Bad Idea

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Recently, opponents of President Trump's plan to construct a wall along the Mexican border and finance its construction with a protective tariff on Mexican imports have voiced a concern that this tariff will lead to increases in the prices of automobiles, groceries, and many other necessary goods. However, in their haste to criticize these proposals, they have overlooked several facts that make both the wall and the import tax a national imperative.

First, the argument that tariffs will raise the cost of living in America is based on the specious assumption that our manufacturing and agricultural requirements will continue to be outsourced at the same rate after these plans go into effect. This exhibits a fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose and practical impact of protectionist measures. Clearly, the border tax is designed not to penalize U.S. consumers but to reverse the rapid attrition of the national labor market. Furthermore, the slowing of international trade may actually reduce the cost of many food items, since domestic farmers will easily be able to meet our consumers' needs and American purchasers will no longer have to compete with Chinese and Mexican wholesalers willing to buy up U.S.-grown grain at exorbitant rates. The return of well-paying manufacturing jobs will also increase the availability of basic necessities by restoring employment to pre-NAFTA levels and creating real career paths for Americans currently stuck in the service sector due to the paucity of domestic jobs. For all of these reasons, the imposition of protective tariffs will boost the national economy.

Additionally, those criticizing these plans on the grounds that they are allegedly inimical to our democratic ideals are ignoring one of our most important national values: self-reliance and the willingness to prioritize our common interests over the convenience of luxury imports. Leading up to the American Revolution, our ancestors were prepared to sacrifice their own comfort as consumers in order to further the cause of our independence by boycotting British-made goods and products subject to arbitrary taxation. Nearly two and a half centuries later, it is hard to believe that our citizens have not inherited their devotion along with their achievements; that during the short period of economic transition that will follow the implementation of these proposals, we will not gladly invest in our collective prosperity and accept any temporary inconveniences caused by the preservation of American jobs.

Say No to TPP at the Polls

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UPDATE: It's nearly been a year since we first launched our "Say No to TPP" initiative on PlanetGreen, and voters have indeed made the security of American jobs a priority in this election. The people have spoken -- Donald Trump is now officially our next President-elect, and it's high time we all put aside the vitriolic rhetoric of the past months and rally around our nation's new opportunity for renewed international prominence and economic regenesis. Thank you all for reading our varied perspectives on the election.

The election is rapidly approaching, and the race is still closer than anyone expected. In these final days both candidates are stating their concluding reasons why they are better suited for the presidency than their adversaries: Hillary Clinton stresses her foreign policy shrewdness and her opponent's volatility, while Donald Trump returns to his core messages of bringing back our jobs and strengthening our national economy.

The vital issue of trade has proved to be a priority for voters this election cycle, and for good reason. Past deals such as NAFTA continue to fuel both the exodus of American manufacturing and the influx of immigrants from Mexico, and these disastrous effects do impact our daily lives - by hindering true economic recovery, by diminishing our international status, and by flooding our store shelves with imported products posing risks to our health and safety.

These threats to our persons and our collective prosperity are real, but not only has the Obama administration has refused to acknowledge the failure of NAFTA, it has proposed an even larger-scale repetition of that mistake, commonly known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. This would allow unlimited free trade with Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam, and leave open the possibility that China or Russia could potentially join the agreement in future years. An incomplete sampling of the TPP's unconscionable provisions:

→ A mandatory arbitration system would be instituted, in which foreign companies could challenge U.S. laws without ever setting foot in United States courts. The adjudicatory panel, known as the Investor-State Dispute Settlement system, would be composed of corporate lawyers who would rotate between the roles of practitioner and judge. However, even though alien businesses could remotely strike down our statutes, the government would have to resort to a foreign judiciary to enforce the few regulatory safeguards in the agreement.
→ Pharmaceutical companies holding United States patents would be given longer terms of monopoly than provided for anywhere in our patent law. This would artificially raise the prices of many lifesaving medications and obstruct free competition by prohibiting the production of generic alternatives.
→ The United States would lose its sovereignty, supplanted by the foreign rule of the ISDS, and citizens would lose many rights guaranteed them by our national legislation: the Wagner Act, fracking regulations, food safety measures, the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, and even the Sherman and Clayton Acts are in danger. Adding insult to injury, taxpayers could be forced to compensate extrinsic businesses for profit "losses" engendered by these essential measures.
→ Private Internet service providers would not only be allowed to monitor users' activities, they would be granted the authority to remove consumers' content and cut off web access without any semblance of due process.

Even though Hillary Clinton was forced by Bernie Sanders' supporters to rescind her support for these measures, she initially backed the TPP, and her running mate Tim Kaine has since stated that both are "flexible" on trade issues; and Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe has corroborated that she will not abide by her promise if elected. Donald Trump, however, has consistently opposed both TPP and NAFTA and pledged to restore fair international trade standards if elected. The election will decide this crucial controversy, and with it the future of our declining cities; the safety of the food on our tables; our right to national sovereignty; the personal security promised us by the Fourth Amendment; and the economic liberties of the free market.

That's why it's imperative that we can't support a candidate that may have halfheartedly promised fair trade, but has repeatedly wavered on that vow and whose record distinctly demonstrates the duplicity of her assurance. In two days, we will decide our fiscal future for decades ahead - and we must have the courage to reject the deleterious provisions of the TPP and stand up for national self-determination.

That's why I, for one, am not ashamed to say that I'm putting my eggs in the "basket of deplorables" this year.

Say No to Giant Sucking Sounds

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In its disregard for the environment, workers, consumers, small businesses, elected governments and human rights, the Trans-Pacific Partnership outdoes NAFTA.

Perot.jpgLike all free-trade agreements that give unfathomable power to wealthy corporations at the cost of injuring humanity, NAFTA went in direct opposition to the principles of utilitarianism by attempting to achieve the greatest good for the smallest number. It did not help the United States; it simply made it easier for American businesses to move their factories to locations where they could operate free of government oversight. As Ross Perot, an Independent candidate for president in 1992 and one of NAFTA's most prominent critics, observed during the second presidential debate,

If you're paying $12... an hour for factory workers and you can move your factory South of the border, pay a dollar an hour for labor,... have no health care[,]... no environmental controls, no pollution controls and no retirement [benefits], and you don't care about anything but making money, there will be a giant sucking sound going south.

Perot's unpretentious phrasing was ridiculed and his logic belittled by many intellectuals and prominent economists, but his predictions were unquestionably accurate.

NAFTA wreaked havoc in Mexico, as well. Devastatingly, the abolition of tariffs flooded the nation's markets with U.S. government-subsidized, GMO, Monsanto-patented corn. Consequently, small farmers lost their land and, with it, their ability to provide for themselves and their families. Much of the region's manufacturing was destroyed when Walmart and other retailers began selling Chinese-made goods. As a direct result of the deal, immigration from Mexico increased to half a million a year after NAFTA's implementation, which, of course, exacerbated the illegal immigration issues we're still facing today. The extension of this treaty to other countries (in a pact known as CAFTA-DR, which stands for the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement) has spread the problems even farther.

The proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership is even more alarming. Even now, Vietnam is beginning to replace China as a target for outsourcing, because its factories are less regulated and its workers receive even smaller pittances. This trade deal would only encourage this trend. If allowed to take effect, the TPP will create an enormous, Trans-Pacific Sucking Sound, with devastating affects on the entire world.

Say No To TPP

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It's another average American evening, and there I am again, wandering the aisles of German-based grocery store Aldi. I begin to examine a package of bright red tomatoes, and intrigued by their unseasonable freshness, I begin to read the label. The vegetables, I discover, were grown in Mexico -- but distributed by a company headquartered in Ontario. Somewhat alarmed by this corporation's deliberate avoidance of the USA, I start examining other products around the store and the town, and discover the omnipresence of foreign goods. Walmart candy: the cherry balls were made in Canada and the peppermints originated south of the border. Canned fruit: the consumer is offered the comforting choice between Chinese and Mexican regulators. Apple juice: Argentina, China, and Turkey make their appearance frequently, but it seems unlikely Johnny Appleseed could find a buyer anytime soon. Silverware: It takes thirty minutes of reading the small print on the backs of tablespoons even to find tableware from Vietnam, and even longer to debate whether that's any safer than China or not. Tinfoil: "Made in America," but the generic brand admits using metal from Russia and the Reynolds Wrap package conveniently doesn't mention it. Even merchandise proudly sporting miniature American flags and other patriotic decorations is more often than not crafted from "imported materials."

Cheap, imported goods are commonplace and unavoidable, thanks to two factors -- international agreements such as NAFTA , which legalized and effectively sanctioned outsourcing, and common law decisions such as Asahi Metal Industry Co. v. Superior Court, 480 U.S. 102 (1987), which placed foreign companies completely out of the reach of US courts and regulators. Yet it still does not appear the U.S. government has learned its lesson.

Hence the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership.

According to its official website, the TPP "levels the playing field for American workers and American businesses, leading to more Made-in-America exports and more higher-paying American jobs here at home." But in reality, it opens the door to even more state-sanctioned outsourcing while providing no protections for sweatshop workers or enforceable environmental requirements. Therefore, we at PlanetGreen.org take a firm stand against it, and, in our "Say No to TPP" series," will explore the terms of the agreement not as they are conveniently summarized by the government but as they will affect our everyday lives and our collective strength and growth as a nation.

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