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Twenty Years of NAFTA

By Kristen Beifus, Co-Chair of PSARA’s Environmental Committee 

January 1, 2014, marks the 20th Anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Yes, for 20 years we have been living under NAFTA, in some ways a more powerful NAFTA than when it started as corporations are finding new and clever ways to use the Investor-State chapter to sue countries for more gains.

Just this past year year we have seen unprecedented law suits: Mexico forced to pay Cargill $95 million attempting to protect its people from high fructose corn-syrup. Canada sued because of a moratorium the people of Quebec put on fracking to research its impact on its water supplies. Lone Pines an Alberta-based corporation used its office in Delaware to sue Canada for $250 million in investment and potential profits and its right to frack.

Over the last 20 years, NAFTA has become synonymous with privatization, de-regulation and the corporate take-over of trade policy. Communities throughout Canada, the US and Mexico have suffered the loss of millions of living wage jobs and the creation of poverty wage jobs, challenges to environmental protections that support healthy communities, the loss of vital family farms and land that supports life. NAFTA and NAFTA-modeled trade deals are root causes of forced economic migration as people leave their countries and risk their lives to find work because the economic situation in their communities is so bad.

And there is the ongoing state-supported violence that attempts to silence any challenge to this destructive model of global trade.

It is clear NAFTA over the last 20 years has eroded our democracy and made us less well. Which is why it is hard to believe that our lawmakers would be considering an expansion of NAFTA under the TransPacific Partnership (TPP). In 2008, on the campaign trail, Candidate Obama promised us re-negotiation of NAFTA. Yet in 2014 we are facing NAFTA plus 9 other countries.

It is for this reason that our allies in Mexico are organizing NAFTA-20, a week of mobilization, and a Tri-national forum in México City culminating in an Intercontinental Day of Action on January 31. This is a call to learn from the past 20 years and forge a different path for trade.

There will be actions in January throughout WA State, the US and North America. Please get involved.

We can be proud of the work we have done in 2013 to educate and activate against the TPP. This year PSARA and activists around the world have forced the debate on the TPP and challenged our elected leaders to safeguard our democracy, our jobs, and our environment.

The majority of Democrats and some Republicans in the House have pledged to vote no on Fast Track, including Rep. McDermott.

The Democratic Party of WA State passed a resolution calling for a complete withdrawal from the TPP, the WA State Labor Council passed four resolutions against the TPP in 2013 and there have been numerous actions and media devoted to shining light on the TPP.

We start 2014 with new opportunities to advocate for trade justice. Let us join together to make sure that we remember 2014 not for being the 20th anniversary of NAFTA, but as the year we stopped the TPP and forged a new model for global trade based on our common values.

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