Transitions at Eyes on Trade
This blog post is a farewell of sorts. After three years, today is my last day at Public Citizen. In a couple weeks, I’ll be continuing to push for a more just trade model over at Sierra Club’s climate and trade program as senior policy advisor. Eyes on Trade, of course, will still be here in the good hands of my colleagues at Global Trade Watch.
It has been a treat to have this space to amplify the call of many for a new trade model, document the damage wrought by our existing trade deals abroad and at home, fact-check dubious economic projections and predictable spin jobs for pending trade deals, spotlight the threats those deals pose to our health/environment/economy/democracy, and witness the growth of the largest, most diverse coalition ever to oppose an expansion of the trade status quo.
I started working on trade when I realized that three lawyers in an investor-state tribunal could trump basic tenets of democracy and rule against health and environmental protections for which many of us have fought. When I saw how a particular model of trade has contributed to the growing gulf between the rich and the rest of us. When I realized that multinational corporations could obtain special protections that restrict consumers' access to life-saving medicines and still get away with calling it "free trade."
Of course, one need not work on trade to know about trade. It is little wonder that majorities of Republicans, Democrats and independents alike oppose the status quo trade pact model. More than two decades of NAFTA, the WTO and NAFTA expansion pacts have contributed to surging U.S. trade deficits, widespread job loss, a flood of agricultural imports, downward pressure on middle-class wages and unprecedented levels of income inequality. Behind the aggregate data lie shuttered factories, lost livelihoods and struggling communities.
These outcomes directly contradict the rosy promises made by corporate interests to sell these controversial deals to a skeptical U.S. Congress and public. They also contradict President Obama’s stated economic agenda to revive U.S. manufacturing, boost middle-class wages and tackle inequality – an agenda that the TPP would undermine. The Obama administration’s push for yet another NAFTA expansion deal casts a blind eye to the damaging legacy of the current trade model.
With opinion polls showing that the U.S. public is painfully aware of this legacy, the administration’s TPP push faces stiff opposition in the halls of Congress and the court of public opinion. Turning a blind eye to the lived realities of the status quo trade model is unlikely to prove a winning strategy.
And with that, at the risk of making this my shortest blog post to date (a perhaps not difficult feat), I bid you adieu. It has been an honor to work with Public Citizen, and to work alongside many of you in pushing for a fair trade policy. I look forward to continuing to do so from my new post.