Hundreds of Prominent US Civil Society Organizations Call on Pres. Biden to Stop Blocking COVID-19 WTO Waiver to Boost Vaccines, Treatments Worldwide

MSF, Oxfam, Partners In Health, Human Rights Watch, Public Citizen, MoveOn, Indivisible, Unions, Faith Groups, Citizens Trade Campaign, Health GAP, and More Urge U.S. Support for Waiver at March 1-2 WTO General Council

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 26, 2021

CONTACT:  Matt Groch mgroch@citizen.org (202) 454-5111

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. consumer, faith, health, labor, human rights, development and other civil society groups urged the White House to support an emergency COVID-19 waiver of World Trade Organization (WTO) intellectual property rules, so that greater supplies of vaccines, treatments, and diagnostic tests can be produced in as many places as possible as quickly as possible. The pandemic cannot be stopped anywhere unless vaccines, tests, and treatments are available everywhere, so variants that evade current vaccines do not develop.

At a press conference joined by Reps. Rosa DeLauro, (D-Conn.), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), U.S. civil society leaders released a letter signed by hundreds of prominent U.S. organizations calling on the Biden administration to join more than 100 nations in support of the waiver. The Trump administration led a handful of countries opposed to the waiver at the WTO. At two recent WTO committee meetings, the new administration has not reversed the Trump era obstruction of the waiver.

The WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) requires countries to provide lengthy monopoly protections for medicines, tests, and technologies used to produce them. While there is production capacity in every region, WTO rules block the timely and unfettered access to the formulas and technology needed to boost manufacturing. Unless much greater volumes are made, many people in developing nations may not get COVID-19 vaccines until 2024. The unnecessary loss of life will be compounded by the loss of livelihoods for millions. According to an International Chamber of Commerce study, the world could face economic losses of more than $9 trillion under the scenario of wealthy nations being fully vaccinated by mid-2021, but poor countries largely shut out.

Statements from Participants:

 

U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Appropriations Committee chair

“The COVID-19 pandemic knows no borders and the need for vaccine development and dissemination across the globe is critically important. The TRIPS waiver raised by India and South Africa at the WTO would help the global community move forward in defeating the scourge of COVID-19 by making diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines available in developing countries. We must make vaccines available everywhere if we are going to defeat this virus anywhere. The U.S. has a moral imperative to act and support this waiver at the WTO, and I am hopeful that the Biden Administration will support this waiver to help our allies around the globe bring an end to this pandemic.”

 

U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade chair

“As a global community, we must come together and use every tool at our disposal to stop this pandemic,” Blumenauer said. “Unfortunately, we have seen intellectual property rules and corporate greed have disastrous impacts for public health during past epidemics, and we need to ensure that this doesn’t happen again. Working to ensure that trade rules do not stunt the developing world’s access to vaccines, treatments, and diagnostic tests is a clear step. It’s the right thing to do not only for our country, but for the entire world.”

U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Senior Chief Deputy Whip and Energy and Commerce Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee chair

“I support the proposed TRIPS waiver because I support equitable vaccine distribution worldwide, because if vaccines aren’t available everywhere, we won’t be able to crush the virus anywhere. The new COVID-19 variants, which show more resistance to vaccines, prove that further delay in immunity around the world will lead to faster and stronger mutations. Equitable access is essential. Our globalized economy cannot recover if only parts of the world are vaccinated and have protection against the virus. We must make vaccines available everywhere if we are going to crush the virus anywhere.”

Paul Farmer, Co-Founder, Partners In Health

“If we want to stop COVID-19 here, we have to stop it everywhere. The world does not have time to wait for the usual, slow, and unequal distribution of treatments, diagnostics, and vaccines. We can take a lesson from the global AIDS movements and make sure patent laws don’t block access to lifesaving therapies for the poor. It’s a similar story for vaccines, which in the case of covid19 we’re so lucky to have and in such short order. Moderna has waived these rights and others should follow suit as we deploy one of the mainstays required to end this pandemic.”

Sara Nelson, President, Association of Flight Attendants-CWA

"COVID does not have borders and neither should vaccine access. Flight Attendants know our jobs depend on a strong global network. We must work to ensure that people around the world have access to the vaccine in order to eradicate this virus. We cannot succeed as a global community without taking care of all people."

 

Sister Simone Campbell, Executive Director, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice

“We have learned over the past year that pandemics are communal struggles. We are all vulnerable, and we all can help control the virus. In our nation, over 500,000 people have died and millions have been infected. The U.S. government has invested over $13 billion in taxpayer funds to create vaccines, and other developed nations have invested as well. Now, we in these rich nations have an obligation to share with the global community. That is the only way to protect the vulnerable here and abroad. Both faith and pragmatics demand it. When we faithfully care for our neighbors, we pragmatically care for ourselves.”

Yuanqiong Hu, Policy Co-coordinator, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) Access Campaign

“Governments must not squander this historic opportunity and avoid repeating the painful lessons of the early years of the HIV/AIDS response. This proposal would give countries more ways to tackle the legal barriers to maximizing production and supply of medical products needed for COVID-19 treatment and prevention. Defending monopoly protection is the antithesis to the current call for COVID-19 medicines and vaccines to be treated as global public goods. In these unprecedented times, governments should act together in the interest of all people everywhere.”

Akshaya Kumar, Director of Crisis Advocacy and Special Projects, Human Rights Watch 

"Sharing the recipe for vaccines by pooling intellectual property and issuing global, open, and non-exclusive licenses could help scale up manufacturing and expand the number of vaccine doses made. This means instead of arguing about how to ration better we could be rationing less."

Brook Baker, Health GAP Senior Policy Analyst & Northeastern University Professor of Law

"As an expert in intellectual property law and access to life-saving medicines, I can assure the Biden administration that IP barriers are real, and they're blocking millions of people around the world from accessing life-saving COVID-19 vaccines. By obstructing the TRIPS waiver proposal, President Biden is breaking his promise to share COVID-19 vaccine technologies with the world. His administration must support the TRIPS waiver and send a message to big pharma that it's unacceptable to write off the lives of 90% of people in low- and middle-income countries."

Arthur Stamoulis, Executive Director, Citizens Trade Campaign

“Supporting this waiver is an easy way for the Biden administration to start reestablishing the United States’ standing within the international community, while also benefiting public health and economic recovery here at home. Trade rules cannot be a cudgel used to force countries into putting pharmaceutical company profits ahead of human life.”

Lori Wallach, Director, Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch

“What is the possible upside of the U.S. blocking this WTO waiver supported by most countries given there is manufacturing capacity around the globe to greatly increase supplies of vaccines, tests, and treatments if formulas and technologies are shared? We are in a race against time with a pandemic that cannot be stopped unless vaccines, tests, and treatments are available everywhere because outbreaks anywhere spawn variants that can evade vaccines and/or are more infectious.”

Link to Recording of Full Press Conference

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Rethinking Trade - Season 1 Episode 28: What The Biden Administration Can Do To Fix Our Trade Mess, Part 2

The Biden administration inherited a political and trade policy landscape transformed since the end of the Obama presidency by both the Trump trade strategy and the COVID-19 pandemic.

To deliver on its Build Back Better promises, the administration must create new approaches to trade that prioritize good jobs, promote the environmental and energy policies needed to counter climate catastrophe, protect consumer health and safety, and promote small business by breaking up monopolies.

In part one of a two-part series, we discuss the short and middle-term steps the Biden Administration should take to accomplish these goals. Welcome to the Cliff Notes version of the Transition Memo on Trade Policy, recently released by Public Citizen and the United Brotherhood of Carpenters.

Learn more at rethinktrade.org.

Music: Groove Grove by Kevin MacLeod 

Link: https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/3831-groove-grove

License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Transcribed by Sally King

Ryan: Welcome back to Rethinking Trade where we don't just talk about trade policy, we fight change it. I'm Ryan, and I'm joined once again by our in house trade expert, Lori Wallach. So Lori, two weeks ago, we ran through day one and first 100 day suggestions for the Biden administration on how to fix our rotten trade policies. Today, we're going to jump into the longer-term changes laid out in the recent transition memo and trade policy that Public Citizen and the Carpenters Union put together. For the listeners, you should definitely check out part one as well. But here's part two. Lori, are you ready to answer some questions?

Lori: I am.

Ryan: So like last time, I'm going to read the headline from this document for each of these policy proposals. You're going to have about one minute to explain it to our listeners, when you hear the buzzer means your time is just about up. You ready to go?

Lori: I am.

Ryan: All right, part two, number one: Conduct an inclusive, comprehensive, transparent process to review existing trade agreements for consistency with the Build Back Better plan.

Lori: So that's kind of self-explanatory. The point is that many terms in our existing trade agreements have nothing to do with trade per se, but rather conflict with the climate and the health and economic justice focus of the Build Back Better plan. And its things as diverse as the ban on buy local or buy American procurement, which is used to reinvest our tax dollars into developing new EV electric vehicle technology or renewable energy sources domestically, it is rules to get subsidies that could help that could stop the government from investing in making more medicine domestically, it is rules about standards that could basically require us to import goods that are climate dangerous and not be able to distinguish. And so all of that stuff needs to be reviewed needs to be fixed. So our trade agreements support, not undermine the whole wide set of non-trade goals that are in the bill back better plan.

Ryan: Number two: Launch a review of USMCA implementation to develop an action plan around labor and environmental rules.

Lori: So the revised NAFTA, which Trump called the US Mexico Canada agreement, had some improvements on paper, but a lot of it still is not implemented. And there are a lot of powerful interests and elite players in the governments of the three countries that may or may not be interested in implementing all of it. So it's really important that the people and planet parts of that agreement, the labor standards, the environmental standards, water quality, etc, that a plan to make sure that stuff is actually translating from paper to improvements on the ground is created and then enforced. And that's everything from cracking down on those border maquiladora plants where workers are being forced to go back to work without COVID protections in Mexico, where unions are still being busted to making sure that the investment of water improvement funds and environmental cleanup money actually goes to where it's supposed to be.

Ryan: All right off to a good start again. Number three: Establish a position at the National Security Council focused on U.S. supply chain resilience.

Lori: So the idea here is we need an all government focus on rebuilding domestic supply chains, and also diversifying these sources of imports for critical goods. The COVID-19 crisis made clear to every American. Here we are in the richest country in the world, and we can't get basic stuff. I mean, we can't get the medical stuff like masks and enough medicine, which in itself is a crisis. But we can't get basic stuff so that if one country in a long, hyperglobalized thin supply chain, were to make, you know one product of food or one electronic product, you have to have the pieces only made each one in one country of 50 countries and one country goes down because there's sickness could be a natural disaster next time the whole thing falls apart. can't have that. This was a real lesson. And so we need coordinated plans to rebuild our resilience and to build stronger supply chains.

Ryan: Number four: Implement the Build Back better by American and other domestic preference program reforms.

Lori: So this is really actually extremely urgent. This is both a longer-term project where our new US Trade Representative will need to be negotiating with other countries to take back the policy space for how we use our taxpayer dollars in procurement that was given away and agreements like the WTO and NAFTA and CAFTA. Right now we have to treat the goods, the services, the companies from 60 other countries as if it was Buy American, so Buy American now means the US and 60 other countries. So that needs to get fixed, because that's in the terms of agreements that need to be renegotiated and President Biden has said he wants to renegotiate those so we, but also our trade partners, can use their tax dollars as a tool to develop their own economies and innovate and invest in their own people. But in the short term, the president needs to immediately wave with respect to the emergency trillions of dollars for COVID relief, and recovery, these limits that make us basically break Buy American. Otherwise, instead of stimulating our economy, instead of starting to invest in being more resilient at home, that money is just gonna get offshored. And there's no conditions on labor standards or environmental human rights conditions. So it could mean our tax dollars go to invest in, you know, goods made in horrible human rights conditions in China, or in plants have busted unions in Mexico. So this is both the short term and long term problem.

Ryan: Number five: Launch a review process to formulate a new US position on digital trade.

Lori: So digital trade is the corporate brand that the Big Tech firms have given to trying to use trade agreements to impose worldwide limits on the regulation of the Big Tech platforms. And some very bad rules like that are in the revised NAFTA, but and in an agreement with Japan that the US pushed, but also they're being pushed at the World Trade Organization for the whole world. And the US has been one of the leaders in pushing for these rules that basically mean governments can't regulate for our consumer data privacy, something that's a huge problem in the US and in many countries, but the US is way behind everyone else. It means that we can't get rid of the liability waiver. That right now means things you buy online, Amazon and other companies pretend that they have no product safety liability. So if the product kills you, you could sue a store, but you can't sue them, they pretend they're not the buyer. They pretend the seller, I mean, they pretend they're just a communications platform, and also a lot of problems around discrimination based on the algorithms that the companies use. So that, you know, white people are offered information on better jobs and black people get less information on good housing, all of those kind of rules, we have to have a new approach to because we need to regulate big tech, not let them use trade agreements, to basically abuse people worldwide.

Ryan: Number six: Implement new US Trade Representative transparency standards.

Lori: So it's not so much the USTR per se, but rather the whole agency. Historically, there has been a lot of behind closed doors, negotiation and secrets information. And these are these negotiations are making policy on things that affect all facets of our everyday lives. But unlike say the Freedom of Information Act, we can get government documents or the government the Sunshine Act, where meetings have to be open. There's a lot of secretive stuff that happens in trade. That is just inappropriate, given what today's trade agreements have meddling in from, you know, access to medicines, to food safety, to where our tax dollars go. So we need to actually have a much more open process so that people not only can get access to the information and know what the government is doing, ostensibly on our behalf but also so that we can have more of a means of giving input of what we want. Right now. There are 500 official advisors who are cleared to see the secret documents have special access, and almost all of them are corporate that can't stand.

Ryan: Number Seven: Work with Congress to update trade preference programs, including the Generalized System of Preferences or GSP, and an early reauthorization of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

Lori: So in addition to trade agreements, the US has what are called trade preference programs. Nice statutory programs that set terms for special, better access into the US market for developing countries that are better tariff, lower tariff rates, for instance, that are included in our global WTO commitments. And the idea that these programs is they should be development programs. And they need to have conditions are pro-development for what a country has to do to get these special market access rights. Unfortunately, over time, the agreements haven't kept up to the transformation and trade policy. So GSP has some labor standards, but they're pretty weak. And the African Growth and Opportunity Act has a variety of conditions you wouldn't want to impose on countries we're trying to help them develop. And in both instances, the programs need to be updated to basically put people and planet standards in place. But also, with the African Growth and Opportunity Act. It needs to be reauthorized early because President Trump was running around to African countries threatening it would go away, and they better sign up for a whole free trade agreement or else which really isn't in their interest or ours.

Ryan: Number eight: Work with the Treasury Department to require all foreign private-sector sovereign wealth fund controlled or state-owned enterprises seeking to list on us capital markets to meet all transparency standards to which US domestic firms are subject.

Lori: Okay, so that was a mouthful. But what that boils down to...

Ryan: That almost took me a minute.

Lori: What that boils down to is this scam, which is the Treasury Department has been waiving the requirements, particularly for a state-owned enterprise means just literally that government-owned firm. There are a lot of Chinese state-owned enterprises, but also some of you there, it's not inherently a problematic thing. You know, the US government port authorities are like a state-owned enterprise. But there are a lot of commercial ones that aren't running services like the Tennessee Valley Authority is a state-owned enterprise. But yeah, it's a government service. But the ones that are competing and trade from other countries and sovereign wealth funders, that's government money, that is investing as if it were a private investor, they're allowed to go to the stock markets, which is where the capital market is so to the New York Stock Exchange, without meeting all the normal requirements that US firms be subject to. And what this is caused is these real conflicts where Saudi Arabian state-owned enterprises and sovereign wealth funds and others from the oil-producing nations, and Chinese state-owned enterprises are buying up US firms that might have a security concern with such ownership or countries with really horrific human rights reputations are buying up sensitive firms and we don't know and or they're getting money on the capital markets, without us knowing. So something's being listed. And we're having us stock buyers put money into it and make it powerful. We don't know who it really is.

Ryan: Number nine: Direct the Department of Commerce to declare that China is not a market economy.

Lori: So this is another kind of wonky thing, but it's actually has a lot of repercussions. How you ask domestic trade policy works with respect to different trade, cheating remedies, like dumping stuff on the US market, below the price of production, that and also how a country is treated at the World Trade Organization has to do with whether or not a country is considered a market economy. If you're a market economy, you get kind of treatment the US, Canada, Brazil, India, Japan, Korea, South Africa get but if you're not a market economy, ie you have a lot of government intervention, a lot of government funding. So you know, a country like China, then you are treated with, I would say, more wariness about what's a subsidy and what isn't? What's fair trade and what isn't? And so it's going to make a big deal for US jobs. And for US companies, especially those that try and create some new US investment in things like electric vehicles and battery storage, new materials, the cutting edge industries, that it's clear, China's not a market economy and they need to be treated that way. And China has been making a lot of threats about if countries don't declare the market economy, they're going to do this or they're going to do that. And so far all the world's countries have stuck together and said, if you're a market economy you are but you're not so you're not and that should stay the current position.

Ryan: All right, we are at the final one number 10: Don't continue with business as usual with respect to publishing a national trade estimates report that includes lists of other countries environmental food, safety, health. and other public interest protections identified as, quote, illegal trade barriers.

Lori: So every March 1, the US government comes out with a report called the National Trade Estimates. It sounds like innocuous, it's not. It's a country-by-country report where, in the course of the year leading up to it, US industry is invited to offer things that they think are unfair trade practices of other countries. And they get listed in the official government report of things these other countries better get rid of. And so the problem is, it ends up being a list of, you know, there are some real trade problems in there, like subsidies or, you know, things that act like a quota a limit on imports, that aren't health or safety-related, and they're honest to god protection. But the vast majority of what is in this report is just targeting the environmental, health, worker safety, food safety, product safety, and other public interest protections that other countries have. And that won't be if they're if the US product has GMOs, and the country requires labeling, if it comes in, if it's not labeled, it can't come in. If another country, for instance, bans the use of chlorine washes, you know, basically crappy chicken, chicken that least liras, feces on it, dipped in chlorine, which is how our system works versus making sure it's clean on the front end. If it can't come in, it can't come in, if other countries will not, for instance, store computer data through the US, because we don't have any privacy protections. And we're not considered safe for that. All right. And so be, as long as it's not discriminatory, it shouldn't be on a trade shit-list. And that is what that national trade estimates list has become. And instead, it should focus on whether real trade problems, where there's actually a benefit for us workers to fixing real trade cheating and not become a hit list of other countries domestic policies that our companies don't like because some products they make can't be sold there.

Ryan: Good work, Laurie, I think you got 50% of them and under a minute. And again, folks should check the link in the summary of this episode, or just go to tradewatch.org. And you can see the transition memo on trade policy.

Lori: And for all the fun that Ryan and I are having about my trying to say what this means each of these bullets in one minute. It's worth reading the memo because it does spell out a roadmap to how we could have a US trade policy taking the opportunity of an incoming administration that seems keen to change some things to actually try and have policies that put people on the planet as a priority.

Ryan: Rethinking trade is produced by Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, I would encourage you to visit rethinktrade.org as well as tradewatch.org to educate yourself and to find out how you can get involved in the work we're doing to fight for fairer and more equitable trade policies.

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Rethinking Trade - Season 1 Episode 27: President Biden Should Reverse Trump's Deadly Obstruction of Global COVID-19 Vaccines

Millions of people around the world may not get COVID-19 vaccines until as late as 2024—unless President Biden reverses the Trump administration’s deadly position at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

SIGN THE PETITION: https://rethinktrade.org/actions/urge-biden-reverse-trumps-deadly-obstruction-of-global-covid-19-vaccine-access/

Transcribed by Sally King

 

Ryan: Welcome back to rethinking trade where we don't just talk about trade policy, we fight change it. I'm Ryan and I'm joined once again by our in house trade expert, Lori Wallach. Do you all remember the episode we did back in December about how rules at the World Trade Organization were preventing countries across the world from accessing the technology they need to produce COVID-19 vaccines and treatments and how the Trump administration had led the way in opposing a proposed waiver to temporarily on an emergency basis allow those countries to access that technology? Well, unfortunately, the situation has not changed even though Trump is out of office. So we are re-releasing that episode today. But before we go back to it, we're going to hear from Lori and get an update on the situation and hear a little bit about some of the campaign work that we are involved with to try to change the U.S.'s position at the WTO regarding these intellectual property protections for Big Pharma. Lori, why don't you just give us an update on what's happening and why this is so important right now.

Lori: So two really important things have happened since we last talked about the WTO rules that could really undermine the necessary supply of COVID vaccines and treatments and testing worldwide. Number one, the WTO had its first meeting since the by the Biden administration entered office. And unfortunately, it does not appear that the memo got to the permanent U.S. WTO staff sitting in Geneva, there has not yet been a new U.S, Trade Representative confirmed; she's going to be great. And there's no new U.S. WTO ambassador to give political marching orders. So that crew that is in Geneva all the time at the WTO just repeated the same old bad old pharma defense that Trump had been dishing out, which is basically, "Yeah, there's no need to change these WTO rules to make sure that the developing world also gets vaccines and gets treatments. We're just going to make sure that all these pharmaceutical companies get these monopoly rights." And you know, no shocker. The U.S. officials did not mention that these vaccines that the U.S. pharmaceutical companies they touted developed, were funded by us, the taxpayers. Yes, these companies did not put their own money up. They got U.S. government money, ie our tax dollars for the development for billions in pre-purchases to cover the expense of the testing, etc. So if there's ever been a time that a waiver of Monopoly rights about where and how much of something is going to be made, as far as medicine and its price, the vaccines for COVID would be the case. So unfortunately, new administration, but not yet a new position. And that's what's going to take everyone's activism. So as Ryan said, we have a petition going on about this, there are other things everyone can do. In addition to signing onto the petition, please consider calling your member of Congress, because here's the second development, it has become incredibly clear that no one anywhere will be safe from COVID. And this epidemic cannot be stopped in any one country, because we have all witnessed variants, mutations of the original virus that are developing wherever there are major outbreaks. And if we do not get vaccines to people around the world, we can vaccinate ourselves 100% in the U.S., but we're going to see a variant a mutation that's not going to be subject to that vaccine. Hell, that could reinfect people have antibodies from surviving new original COVID and anytime there's a chance of huge outbreaks there's a huge chance of more mutations. And the most recent studies suggest people in middle and low income countries won't be able to get vaccinated until the end of 2022. And people in the poorest countries until 2024. That means if we're being really self centered and thinking about just what it means for us, we in the U.S. 100% vaccinated, let's just say, will not be safe. If we do not get these TRIPS, rules waived. At the WTO, so that as much vaccine can be made in as many countries as possible, as quickly as possible so that everyone can get vaccinated, everyone can get tested, everyone can get treated, no one will be safe until everyone is safe. And right now, these WTO rules are a big impediment to all of that. So please help get the word out, help get the U.S. to join the rest of the world and do the right thing. The fix is not a heavy lift, the U.S. just needs to stop blocking the initiative by South Africa and India as the WTO that now has more than 100 countries supporting it. So that more vaccine more treatment, more testing can be produced worldwide. 

Ryan: You can find the link to the petition in the description of this podcast episode, or you can go to rethinktrade.org or tradewatch.org. You can find the petition there, sign it, share it with folks. And stay tuned, because what's following is our episode from December where we take a bit more of a deep dive into this issue.

Lori: So let's take one step back. The World Trade Organization enforces a dozen plus agreements, including the old trade rules, which are called GATT, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, that's the part that really is about trade. One of those other agreements is the thing you just mentioned Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights, which is often called TRIPS. That is basically the antithesis of free trade. That is a set of monopoly protections every WTO signatory country is obliged to guarantee to big pharmaceutical corporations. And that includes a guarantee of a 20 year monopoly. For any medicine, it creates periods of exclusivity over the data use to prove a drug is safe, so that the generic manufacturers sometimes have to wait even longer. All of those kinds of rules, of course, are really the opposite of what you think of for free trade, right competition. Those are rules designed to block competition to give monopoly powers to big pharmaceutical firms, they can charge any damn price they want for medicines. So in the face of having that imposed on 160 countries worldwide, we're all but the least developed countries are required to have these very stringent monopoly protections for big pharmaceutical firms. A set of countries led by South Africa and India, came in with a proposal now supported by dozens of countries. And that was to waive those pharmaceutical company, monopoly rights for temporarily anything during the COVID crisis that is necessary for the production of treatments of vaccines and the technologies around the production. So the actual medicines, and also the know-how to produce them. And it's really obvious why to do this, we need to get billions of doses of vaccines, hundreds of millions of doses of treatments. And the only way the whole world is going to get better, is if the whole world gets better. It's an epidemic. So it's actually in the interest of people all around the world to get enough of the vaccine made, so that there's no one who can't get it and quickly. But right now, the way the WTO rules are set up, if a country, for instance, simply copied the vaccine, or insisted that the company provide the know-how for how to copy the vaccine, then it would be in violation of these WTO rules. And a country's imperative to save lives, would subject the country to indefinite trade sanctions. So a developing country would have huge penalties billions of dollars put against its actual exports needed to keep its country going, because they put people's lives first.

Ryan: And what would that process actually look like if a country was held in in violation?

Lori: Well, let's just be super concrete, because sadly, this is not the first time this has happened. During the peak of the AIDS epidemic, when hundreds of thousands people were dying, antiretroviral treatments were available, but they were so prohibitively expensive, that throughout the developing world, in Brazil and South Africa, people were dying needlessly for whom if generic versions of these medicines could have been produced, their lives would have been the life of a person in the U.S. or Europe, with with AIDS which is basically the anti-retrovirals would make it a treatable perennial but treatable disease. Instead of having a chronic treated disease, people all over the global south are dying. And countries started to want to make their own medicines and some developing countries have the capacity India can do it. Argentina can do it South Africa, Brazil, and the United States on behalf of its big pharmaceutical companies basically threatened to go to the WTO and attack those specific countries for violating these trade agreement. pharma monopoly roles, instead of basically helping those countries try and save the lives of their people who had HIV or AIDS. And that case ended up blowing up because that was folks who remember, when Al Gore was running for president, people from act up, were following him around busting into his event screaming "greed kills." Well, that was a WTO TRIPS case, that was the gift them to back down the clinton ministration on these attacks using the WTO against HIV/AIDS medicines. So what happens with the sanctions is practical, one of these WTO tribunals decides that some country's health law is a violation of the WTO rules. And then the country is told you have 90 days to get rid of that regime for making medicine available that pharmaceutical generic company, and if you don't, then we're going to impose penalties on all of your exports. What that means practically is, for instance, every good that a developing country would export would be hit with a huge tariff on the way into other countries. So that basically, it's like a strangle. It's basically we're gonna choke you to death if you don't change. And we're going to do that by cutting off your exports.

Ryan: I know there's an effort underway right now to pressure the U.S. and other countries to support this waiver at the WTO and prioritize responding to the pandemic over protecting Big Pharma intellectual property rights. But ultimately, who has the power to change the U.S. position here? And also, what are the prospects of this position changing under the incoming Biden administration?

Lori: Ryan? That is exactly the question to ask. So the who has the power to change this? This is a position that's taken in the executive branch. It doesn't require Congress to pass anything. Whomever is the president and the president's top trade official, the U.S. Trade Representative decides the positions the United States will take at the World Trade Organization, the United States sits in a council it's called the general council with the other countries who are signatories to the WTO. The general council takes positions if the United States, which under the Trump administration has joined Europe and handful of other countries who are the homes of the big pharmaceutical corporations to block this proposal if the U.S. change sides, something the Biden administration could do without Congress again, and then what it would look like is, the instructions go from the White House to the U.S. representatives at the WTO in Geneva. And they go to that meeting, which the next one right now their meeting, we're going to say the wrong thing, the U.S. has been to say the wrong thing. So when it meets again, in January, that General Counsel, the U.S. can go in and say we now join those countries that want to temporarily waive the WTO special monopoly protections for Big Pharma. It's a temporary waiver until the epidemic crisis is over. It only applies to those medicines and technologies with respect to vaccines and treatments for this crisis. But we join putting public health first that's all it would take. And who can make that happen? Well, that's us. So we all need to be taking action to contact our members of the House or members of the Senate. And frankly, as soon as Joe Biden is sworn in the White House, which will be taking, of course the usual hotline, emails and letters, and the reason to get Congress engaged as this is not a one off. So these WTO rules in this particular waiver is extremely urgent. It's literally going to make the difference between life and death for people all over the world in relation to the COVID-19 epidemic. But this is a fight that we started with the NAFTA renegotiation, when we got the most extreme Big Pharma giveaways that Trump added to the old NAFTA making it worse, we got that out. But we need as the United States of America to have a new position about these kinds of pharma protections in trade agreements, they don't belong there at all. It's not just the WTO rules should be waived, but rather we need to negotiate these terms. So we're putting people's health first. Yes, we want to reward innovation. So when a company comes up with a great invention, there are ways to reward that, but the amount of time and what the balance is between people getting access to medicine, and the gluttonous profits that these Big Pharma companies make is a real problem. Because this is something where on the first day the Biden administration can show they're going a different way on trade. They're going to put people over profits, they're going to put health over Big Pharma. And this is one of those things they can do on their own if we all join inand push them to do it. 

Ryan: And if you go to rethinktrade.org, you can scroll to the bottom to the take action section and you can send a letter from there to your representative and senators. And on the eyes on trade blog. You can also which I'll link in the bio of this episode, you can read more about the WTO trips issue. Rethinking Trade is produced by public citizen's global trade watch, I would encourage you to visit rethinktrade.org as well as tradewatch.org to educate yourself and to find out how you can get involved in the work we're doing to fight for fairer and more equitable trade policies.

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Rethinking Trade - Season 1 Episode 26: What The Biden Administration Can Do To Fix Our Trade Mess, Part 1

The Biden administration inherited a political and trade policy landscape transformed since the end of the Obama presidency by both the Trump trade strategy and the COVID-19 pandemic.

To deliver on its Build Back Better promises, the administration must create new approaches to trade that prioritize good jobs, promote the environmental and energy policies needed to counter climate catastrophe, protect consumer health and safety, and promote small business by breaking up monopolies.

In part one of a two-part series, we discuss the short and middle-term steps the Biden Administration should take to accomplish these goals. Welcome to the Cliff Notes version of the Transition Memo on Trade Policy, recently released by Public Citizen and the United Brotherhood of Carpenters.

Transcribed by Sally King

 

Ryan: Welcome back to rethinking trade where we don't just talk about trade policy, we fight to change it. I'm Ryan, and I'm joined once again by our in house trade expert, Lori Wallach. So, Lori, we're recording this in the very first days of the new administration. And as much as the joy as it was watching Donald Trump leave the White House last week. This week, we are focusing on the hard work ahead of us. Importantly, we're not just talking about fixing the damage brought on by Trump, but by decades of corporate rigged trade policies. So Public Citizen and the Carpenters Union have just released a lengthy transition memo and trade policy which you helped author. The memo lays out a lot of suggestions for fixing US trade policy. So I suggest listeners follow the link in the description to read all of it. But today, we're going to do a sort of 20 questions style episode covering the memos day one and first 100 day suggestions for the Bible administration. Before we get started, though, Lori, maybe you can just give us a bit of an overview of the vision laid out in this memo,

Lori: I think it could be useful to first start with a little bit of that context. The Biden administration is inheriting a US trade policy and political landscape that has been transformed since the end of the Obama presidency by both Trump and COVID-19. So the COVID-19 crisis, and really the inability of the world's richest country to make or get essential goods in the face of crisis has awakened a lot more Americans two fundamental problems with the current trade regime concentrating production, a few low wage countries, and having destroyed 60,000 us manufacturing facilities in the last 25 years and the hyperglobalisation. That's been implemented by agreements like the World Trade Organization, and NAFTA, that have left lots of countries really not all resilient, lis supply chains stretched super thin. So lots of countries just couldn't get self or gear up to make the stuff they needed. And then you have the Trump effect of Trump becoming president, by connecting to many Americans real anger, about the good manufacturing jobs that are trade policies implemented by Democratic and Republican Presidents alike, have killed and what it's done to cities and towns across this country, to have the almost 70% of Americans in the workforce without a college degree. See their lives go from a middle class, livelihood to scraping by and uncertainty, and that anger was seized by Trump. But then Trump failed to implement the critical changes that were necessary to really significantly alter the outcomes of US trade policy. Now, on the one hand, there is one really good thing, which is Trump's Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. managed to create an enormous amount of leverage pushing in the right direction generally. And the new Trade Representative, a very capable person and Katherine Tai will inherit a bunch of that leverage the outstanding tariffs against China, the revised North American Free Trade Agreement, which has some good stuff, but isn't getting enforced yet. There are some big problems with the enforcement. So there's some good stuff to work with at the World Trade Organization, as well, where there's a bunch of new leverage because of what light hyzer did. So when you then look at what is it exactly that ought to get done? It boils down to something really simple. We really need to change us trade policy to promote not undermined the major domestic policy goals, like dealing with good jobs and decent wages and the underlying economic inequality and racial inequality that has been exacerbated by years of outsourcing good middle-class jobs, and the weakness and frailty in our health and economic security that we have seen with the loss of the ability to make stuff. And making sure in the middle of a climate crisis that is a planetary imperative to deal with. We are harnessing our trade policies to cure the climate crisis, not as has been the past make it worse. And as we face all of the simultaneous challenges, our current trade policies conflict with a lot of the policies that this administration says we're going to implement things that countries around the world say have to happen. And so the highest of the top-line agenda is, we have to get rid of the policies embedded in our trade agreements by corporations who rigged the rules, that undermine good jobs and affordable medicine and a livable planet. And then we need to put in place the missing roles that prioritize people in planets so that the global economy is harnessed to work for us not to make a handful of really big corporations even richer.

Ryan: And we're going to get into the specifics about how to do that. Now, how I structured this Lori is it's going to be like 20 questions, but really 20 statements. And I'm going to read the headline from the transition memo for each of these proposals. And then you're going to have one minute to explain to our listeners the context of each one. I'm going to set a buzzer on my phones when you hear the buzzer. Time is up, we're almost up. So you have to wrap up. Are you ready? 

Lori: I'm really nervous but ready.

Ryan: It's like a game show. Lori: Dun, dun, dun dun, Ryan: A very geeky game show. Okay, this is for the day one immediate stuff. Number one: nominate a US trade representative who is suited to the mission of transforming US trade policy towards a pro-worker, pro-small business, pro-health and pro-environment focus,

Lori: Ding, ding, ding. That was done. Katherine Tai is a terrific nominee for the US trade representative's office, who will hopefully be quickly confirmed. She is very knowledgeable. She has the right perspective and thinking about how to fix our trade policies. So it works for people on the planet. She's very hard-working, she's very strategic. She is the best Democratic nominee for USTR. That could have been possible. So check the box that was done.

Ryan: We are off to a good start number to launch the buy American Trade Pack plan described in the Build Back Better plan.

Lori: So that one is a little bit more of a mixed story. The good news is on the 25th of January, the President issued an executive order that covered most of the territory of what needs to be done. But that executive order did not actually do the things that are necessary to improve the policy. So it will be a matter of watching closely about whether they follow through on a lot of the things that they said they would do in this executive order. If they do it could make a big difference. The big issue here is that the President's about to spend almost $2 trillion in very much needed COVID stimulus emergency relief. But if they don't close the loophole that currently has 60 other countries treated like by American thanks to trade agreements, they no longer that money is going to get offshored instead of being invested back into our job. And it won't stimulate the economy.

Ryan: And folks can see the public citizen statement on the buy American executive order at tradewatch.org. Number three, issue an executive order to remedy abuses of de minimis import provisions by big tech platforms.

Lori: It sounds complicated, but it's not. It's a loophole. The big online sales platform slipped into law in 2015. That means that every day you can bring in imported $800 of stuff with no tariffs, no taxes, no inspection. The trick is the Amazon and the other platforms have it set up so that you the customer, not them, the company is considered the importer. What does that mean? They're bringing in hundreds of millions of packages by air that don't get inspected, that don't get taxed. It's dangerous for the consumer. It's not fair to the brick and mortar store that actually has to pay the taxes when they bring in the three $700 bicycles. They're paying tariffs and taxes and having that stuff all inspected. But if we each individually buy those two bicycles. Amazon's making windfall profit, and it's not fair and it's not safe and it's easy enough to fix. We just have to do it.

Ryan: Okay, number four, announced that the new USTR will consult with Congress stakeholders and allied countries to develop a comprehensive us approach to the future of the World Trade Organization.

Lori: And then there's an additional thing and will not support appellate body appointments during this process. So that's the punchline that's very important. The previous administration stomped along the appointment of the final judges at the WTO. These are the folks who basically order countries to change their laws if their food safety standards are too high, or their financial regulations are too strong, or their environmental laws are too protective of the planet. And so there was a bunch of cases where these on appointed international lawyers in Geneva were just making stuff up and making countries change laws. And it wasn't even stuff countries that signed up to at the WTO. So right now, we need to figure out before the US starts approving new judges how the rules need to get changed both the procedural rules and the substance. So what we need here is a policy where we basically have a big conversation, what are the goals of the WTO? Heck, it's already 20 years old anyway, it hasn't worked out well. So what rules do we need to change what procedures should be changed, and we shouldn't start up the whole thing, again, to attack our laws and undermine our goals unless and until we know how to fix it.

Ryan: Number five, announced a moratorium of any new trade agreements until a comprehensive review has been undertaken to develop a new trade agreement model.

Lori: So the administration committed candidate Joe Biden committed that they weren't going to do any more trade agreements and less until they had made major investments in domestic infrastructure worker education and training and manufacturing capacity. And the idea was to get our house in order before we write new agreements, but also to make sure we have agreements and new way of doing them that promote goals like good jobs, good wages, etc. So the big question is, will they stick to that 100%. And what that would mean is not picking up the trade agreements that include a lot of really problematic goodies for big tech and Big Pharma and the financial services, the Wall Street guys, there are agreements being negotiated right now at the United Kingdom, and with Kenya, that are not the right model. And this moratorium needs to apply to those need to go into the deep freeze, if not the recycling bin. And then there's a really worrisome agreement, global wine at the WTO, that would have all kinds of new rights and privileges for big tech firms that you couldn't regulate them, they could basically have their way with our privacy, etc. And that needs to also be part of the moratorium.

Ryan: Number six: Direct US Customs and Border Protection to issue a regional withhold release order on all-cotton goods imported from the Zhenjiang region of China.

Lori: So this is easy and quick, that's actually got done so this administration just needs to keep it in place. What that means is basically an assumption that goods that come from that region, are made with forced labor in these abusive prison internment camps that the Chinese government has filled with ethnic Muslim minorities from the region. And you have to prove as the importer, that the production chain is without forced labor, its assumption that it can't come in unless you can prove it's not forced labor. And that creates basically pressure on China to reverse its behavior.

Ryan: Number seven: Announced that existing tariffs on Chinese goods will be maintained while the new administration develops its demands with respect to Chinese subsidies, currency misalignment, and labor and human rights abuses.

Lori: So this is like the WTO situation. You have leverage going in as a new administration. In this case, it's 30% tariffs on $350 billion worth of stuff. And as you can imagine, all the corporate lobbies are screaming take off, the tariffs take off the tariffs, except those tariffs are leverage. China's imports to the US have declined in the sectors that have the tariffs on them. And it is a problem. It is a problem that Chinese elite in the government and industry want to have go away, which is to say they might be willing to do some things to make them go away. The previous administration was prioritizing things like better intellectual property protections for companies operating in China, or easier investor terms in China. These would not be things that help US workers. Those are things that actually are counterproductive. They make it easier to offer So the question is, let's get our policy of what, which certainly is going to focus on things like labor rights and human rights and wages, currency, and not have those tariffs given away without trying to use them to improve the policies.

Ryan: Number eight: issue a de Marche to countries in the UN Commission on International trade laws ISDS Working Group regarding current and future Investor-State Dispute Settlement rules.

Lori: So there's been so much opposition growing against Investor-State Dispute Settlement ISDS, that the law, the corporate law firms, and some of the big oil companies that like to use that system, which empowers individual companies to go before a tribunal of three private lawyers to demand unlimited compensation paid by US taxpayers, from any government for any perceived violation of an investment agreement, or the investor rules in an agreement like NAFTA, just under NAFTA, over $400 million has been paid out and attacks against environmental policy, health policy, etc. So the guys who like that outrageous rigged system, realize they're in trouble. And they went to UNCITRAL, that UN body, which is one of the places where they take these cases, to really try and get off the steam. And the idea was to pretend that they were talking about reforming ISDS to try and distract the opposition. And instead, they decided to make that a place to try and lock in a new form of ISDS. And so the US needs to make clear, a written position that the US is no longer for ISDS and isn't going to join up in that farce.

Ryan: Number nine: Issue a démarche to all nations that now qualify for the African Growth and Opportunity Act or AGOA, or that could qualify, clarifying that the program is not about to be terminated.

Lori: So what this is about is President Trump making threats, including in a meeting with the president of Kenya, that the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which is a policy, it's not a bilateral agreement, it's a policy, where the United States passed a law that says African countries from Sub Saharan Africa, if they meet certain criteria can have duty free access into the US, and basically have terms of trade better than what a lot of other countries might get in the World Trade Organization. And the idea was for it to be a development program that wasn't cash aid, and to help build diversified economies now, Africa, and that policy sunsets in 2025, the current extension, but it's been extended in 10-year chunks, repeatedly five-year chunks a couple of times. It's just it's not controversial. So President Trump was trying to get the president of Kenya to sign up for a free trade agreement where instead of having this access, and you would have to basically have a lot of obligations to US corporations to get the same old access. And it's really important countries in Africa realize that program is not going away. They don't need to make a deal that's bad for their people just to keep what they already have.

Ryan: We're at number 10. This is the final one for the day one. Number 10: Issue an executive order reaffirming that US trade officials are prohibited from promoting tobacco sales, reducing tobacco tariffs, or seeking to undermine the regulation of tobacco products.

Lori: So what that's about is what's called the Doggett Amendment, which was a prohibition from almost 20 years ago, and US trade officials promoting big tobacco. Sadly, during the Obama era, they basically ignored that. And they did a bunch of stuff that was really pro-tobacco in agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership. So the idea is to reaffirm that US trade negotiators aren't going to be pushing deadly tobacco products and other countries in our trade negotiations.

Ryan: You did it!

Lori: So that was that 10th item of what was supposed to be the first-day agenda. Given I couldn't even summarize each of the 10 items in one minute. Obviously, no matter how good an administration they couldn't get all that done in the first day. So first day is kind of a term of art for meaning the most urgent short term things that have to happen. And we just got an overview of all the things to set up a good trade policy going forward. And there's a lot of work to make sure that still happens.

Ryan: And stay tuned for part two where we're going to do the first 100 day top 10 rethinking trade is produced by Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, I would encourage you to visit rethinktrade.org as well as tradewatch.org to educate yourself. You can find out how you can get involved in the work we're doing to fight for fair or equitable trade policies.

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Strikes Hit U.S. Factories in Mexico as Corrupt Unions Again Sell Out Workers

This week, the city of Matamoros, Mexico is again seeing wildcat strikes as expected annual wage increases have been traded away by corrupt unions.

Though the revised North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) includes improved labor rights terms and Mexico enacted significant labor law reforms in 2019 – both of which could help workers in Mexico to organize and win real changes in their lives – little has changed on the ground.

That’s why workers in factories along the Texas border are on strike right now.

They are part of a growing independent labor movement seeking to oust corrupt “protection” unions and transform working conditions in Mexico, where real wages since NAFTA was enacted 25 years ago are 40% lower than manufacturing wages in China.

The 20/32 Movement

The story of the Tridonex plant, operated by a subsidiary of Philadelphia auto parts maker Cardone, spotlights the glaring enforcement failures for both Mexico’s new labor law and the revised NAFTA.

While Cardone still claims to be Philadelphia’s largest manufacturing employer in 2016, the company announced it was sending 1,500 of the city’s union jobs to Matamoros. It sent another 200 in the years since.

In 2019, workers in dozens of maquiladoras in Matamoros, including Tridonex, began organizing work stoppages demanding pay raises enacted by the new Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Their demands – a 20% salary increase and a one-time bonus of 32,000 pesos – helped launch the 20/32 Movement.

After numerous wildcat strikes protesting not only factory bosses but also the corrupt unions that collaborate with them to lock in low wages and bad working conditions, the movement won.

After the 2019 victory, Tridonex workers petitioned to join the independent union that was born in the strikes: the National Independent Union of Industry and Service Workers, or SNITIS. The local labor board refused to allow an affiliation vote.

In the spring of 2020, the region was again at the center of labor controversy as workers launched wildcats strikes while factory management defied COVID-19 closure orders. Against this backdrop, Tridonex workers marched on the local labor board, which was still refusing to issue the decision to send the workers’ union dues to SNITIS.

Months later, a lawyer and labor advocate who represents workers at Tridonex and other factories during the strike, Susana Prieto Terrazas, became a target of reprisals by the local powers-that-be. Arrested and wrongfully charged with instigating a riot, Susana was held in jail for a month on trumped-up charges of “mutiny, threats and coercion.”

Amidst growing international pressure, including from the U.S. Congress, she was released under coercive conditions, including banishment from Matamoros, designed to stop her from representing independent unions.

After her release, the governor of Chihuahua, Matamoros’ neighboring state to which Prieto was banished, issued new arrest warrants for which she has a hearing on February 25. Since then, Susana has been subjected to repeated threats on her life and safety. In early January, she sent a desperate plea to Mexico’s president, who had promised her protection but failed to follow through.

It has been a year since Tridonex workers petitioned to change their union, and to this day, the company has not held a vote and the local labor board has not acted.

Not only are the actions of Tridonex a clear violation of Mexico's new labor law reforms and the protections provided under the revised NAFTA, the story provides a clear-cut case of what outsourcing incentivized by race-to-the-bottom trade deals looks like on the ground: decent union jobs are sent to countries where wages are far lower and where gross labor violations are routine. Good jobs are transformed into bad jobs, and union security is replaced by exploitation and violence.

Unless Mexico’s labor law reforms and the revised NAFTA are enforced, nothing will change.

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Rethinking Trade - Season 1 Episode 25: Rethinking Trade in 2021: What Are We For?

With Georgia’s run-off elections shifting control of the Senate to the Democrats, the party will have a lot more room to pursue progressive reforms than in previous years. What does this mean for fixing our rotten trade rules, and what kinds of policies should we be pursuing?

In part one of this episode, we address this question by discussing the TRADE Act of 2009. Co-sponsored by 135 members of the House and developed with a coalition of labor, environmental and other civil society organizations, the TRADE Act laid out a comprehensive vision for trade policies that would promote employment and development while protecting the environment and public health. But a lot has happened since then, from the harsh lessons COVID-19 had taught us about the facilities of hyperglobalization to the growing climate crisis to Big Tech’s monopoly choke hold. So how would progressives build on the vision of a decade ago?

In part two, we look at President-Elect Biden’s commitment to impose a moratorium on new trade deals until major investments are made to protect U.S. workers, and we discuss how important it is that this period also include a process of rethinking and fixing U.S. trade policy to work for people and the planet.

 

Transcribed by Sally King

Ryan: Welcome back to rethinking trade where we don't just talk about trade policy, we fight change it. I'm Ryan and I'm joined once again by our in house trade expert, Lori Wallach. Lorie, it's hard to know exactly how to start this episode, given the shocking things that have happened in the last week and a half in the United States. I'm sure more is to come. One thing that's not changing, however, is the results of the Georgia election and the fight for control of the Senate, which will no doubt have an impact on the fight for good trade policies in the coming year and years. I know many of our listeners are wondering whether these results will help deliver new trade rules that work for working people and the planet. To introduce this new political moment, though, I wanted to do two things. First, I wanted to actually step backwards a bit to just over a decade ago to discuss a comprehensive trade bill that you know a lot about called the TRADE Act. And then I want to talk about the more immediate trade deal moratorium that President-elect Biden has committed to. Let's start with the Trade Reform, Accountability, Development and Employment Act or TRADE Act. What was this bill? Or why is it important for us to be discussing it today?
Lori: So the TRADE Act was a comprehensive vision of a different kind of trade and investment policy that would promote employment, development, accountability, promote the environment and public health. And it was developed from the bottom up from members of Congress who would oppose the old NAFTA/WTO model of trade agreements, and a vast set of citizens groups, family, farm groups and consumer groups, labor unions and environmental groups, faith groups and small business groups. And it basically came out of a process that was a year long, that was basically started with discussions, what would it be? What would we be for? What do we want? What are the outcomes we want, and then some of the trade wonky allies sat down and start writing the technical trade language that would get to those results. And then there was an iterative editing process, until ultimately, with the members of Congress and the outside groups that basically are like the core constituency of the Democratic Party, a fully articulated version of what kinds of trade agreements, how to review the old ones. And if they weren't working, fix them, and how to replace the fast track trade authority with a new process that would put an emergency brake and a steering wheel on the negotiations, to make sure that the substantive vision in the TRADE Act was going to be the outcome for agreements negotiated under this new process. And the thing that's the most amazing about this is a 60, page long, detailed bill ended up with something like 150 c0-sponsors, agreeing that this should be the new way forward on trade.


Ryan: And what is what is this bill mean, now 10 years later, do you think we need a new TRADE Act for today?


Lori: For sure, because at that point, the focus was on a lot of issues that are still around with serious problems, offshoring of jobs, race to the bottom wages, multinational companies, abusing workers and developing countries and effectively violating people's basic human and labor rights to maximize their profits. And really bad environmental practices and attacks on our best existing environmental and health and safety laws. All those issues were issues already. And those issues were dealt with in the TRADE Act. But now there's been a decade more experience of what does and doesn't work as far as the rules and trade agreements and whether they can change the behavior of these dangerous multinational corporations. But then there are a whole set of issues that weren't at the forefront when the TRADE Act was being created. Climate we knew, but we didn't know that it was the do or die crisis of our future. Or at least a lot of people didn't. Some smart people did. The whole sort of issues around the massive digital monopolies, the Amazons, the Googles, Facebook, the platforms that have both become enormous threats it to small businesses to the safety of consumers with their unsafe imported products that sneak around normal tax and other obligations small businesses have to face, but also their monopoly of information and their training and our private information as if it were commodity, those issues were really not engaged then. And those issues are now some of the outrageous tie the hands of government rules that big companies are trying to insert into trade agreements. And then finally, I think the TRADE Act, though it was way ahead of its time, also didn't fully incorporate the degree to which multinational companies would be using the so called trade agreements to dodge things like financial regulation, and anti trust breaking up monopolies broadly, not just the big tech companies, and trying to systematically undermine the space government's had domestically to ensure that the economy works for most people. So all of the outrageous problems that were surfaced with COVID of these hyper brittle globalized supply chains, where the only thought was efficiency, not web and corporate profits, not whether consumers could get goods they needed for their health and safety and to deal with emerging crises. So those are things that any new trade policy going forward is going to need to deal with up front that the TRADE Act did not.

Ryan: And I will drop a link in the description of this podcast episode where you can learn more about the TRADE Act from Public Citizen's website. Laurie, for part two of the podcast, I wanted to talk about President Elect Biden's commitment to impose a moratorium on trade deals, meaning he would not negotiate any new deals until we've, quote, made major investments here at home and our workers and our communities, equipping them to compete and win in the global economy. That includes investing in education, infrastructure and manufacturing, here at home and quote, why is it important that Biden stick to this plan, and maybe you could just tell us a little more about this plan.

Lori: It's important that Biden's stick to his promise about a moratorium on new trade agreements. And that also that that moratorium practically means that they're not going to continue with the negotiations that the Trump administration started. For free trade agreements with the United Kingdom, or with Kenya, or for new rules that big tech wants at the WTO to handcuff all of our governments from protecting our privacy and holding these monopolies accountable. All of that stuff needs to go on hiatus. And a lot of it just needs to get dumped. Because number one, a lot of the existing rules directly conflict with the goals and policies that the Biden administration itself has said it will prioritize as part of its build back better plan. So expanding by American and by America, reinvesting our tax dollars, into creating innovation and jobs, and improving our infrastructure here violates existing trade rules, giving subsidies to create the industries of the future, necessary for our resilience and ability to respond to future crises necessary to improve our economic resilience in this global economy, necessary to address economic injustice by investing in communities of color and poor parts of the country that have not had real investments for decades to create jobs, and move the economies in these regions. Those kinds of subsidies, depending on how they're done will violate WTO and NAFTA rules against subsidies or breaking up the big tech firms regulating the banks making sure we have affordable health care, depending how any of that is done, or all of the most common sense things we need to do with respect to the climate crisis with respect to energy, for instance, a bunch of those violate or conflict with the service sector, corporate guarantees and the WTO and all of our free trade agreements. And that's just serve a sampling of the problem. So to do what the bytom ministration is guaranteeing they're going to do domestically, not about trade, they need to fix the existing rules, they should not be doubling down on damnation and problems they need to fix the existing rules. And then the number two reason why this moratorium is critical is we need to get the rules, right.
So we know what didn't work. We know what the policy disasters of that have been. And we now have seen that political disasters, that these corporate rigged rules that leaves so many Americans clobbered and feeling hurt and aggrieved have caused. So we need to take the damn time to have the conversation in Congress, in the administration, with outside stakeholders in, in labor in the environmental and consumer and small business and family farm and faith communities, everyone who could be engaging needs to be engaging in sorting out what do we want trade policy to do? The new US Trade Representative nominee Catherine Thai said exactly right. trade is not an end until itself. It is a tool to use to promote our values and our goals. So as a country, we need to have a discussion about how do we make a new trade policy for the future that actually promotes not undermine undermines where we want to go with climate and saving the planet; with creating good jobs and improving people's wages, and dealing with racial and economic inequalities that have blighted our nation for decades. What are we going to do? As a nation? How do we want to go building an infrastructure that's not just safe, but creates innovation gets us ready to be part of the climate solution, not part of the disaster? All of those questions need to be thought out in the context of "Oh, that tool that's called trade, the rules we've been using make it worse, how do we actually make it better? How do we harness that tool to promote our goals, not have the old policies undermine the things we care about." And without a moratorium to basically put the steamroller in neutral and pull it off, and park it and have a thoughtful discussion. We're going to just be continuing the disaster, or a lot of us are going to be distracted from being able to put our shoulders to fighting what for what we're for. Because we'll be in these stupid backwards repeated fights to stop the bad stuff. And you know, we'll do it and you know, we can. We stop the TPP, US activist united. But what a dang waste of time as compared to having this hiatus and having time to think about how we're going to go forward together.


Ryan: And how can civil society organizations like the ones that you've mentioned, how can folks like that and grassroots activists, like many of our listeners, helped shape this process to ensure that it results in real progressive changes in our trade policies?


Lori: Well, that's the perfect question. So the first thing is, we have to make sure that the moratorium is real. And that includes those agreements, including the WTO, big tech agreements, the UK and Kenya free trade agreements, and any new investment agreements with ISDS or without are not going forward. First thing to do about that is I recommend folks call members of Congress, email text, right? They're members of Congress with a two part message. Number one, I want this moratorium on trade, and I want to be reliant needs to include all the leftover Trump agreements. And number two, right to me member of Congress, and tell me what the new trade policy is going to be after this moratorium, I want to be part of creating that I want you to be part of creating that we need to replace our old trade policy. You want to get the members of Congress thinking about it, and you want to get them engaged. So open that discussion, you don't have to have the answers. And then number two, to help you think about the answers go to our website, tradewatch.org and rethink trade. Both of those are places where number one, you can see what was in that trade at. But number two, you can start thinking for yourself what's most important to you, in a good trade policy, what things should always be in trade agreements, obviously, they all have to have a floor of decency that companies have to meet if they want to get the benefits of the trade agreements, certain labor and wage standards, certain environmental standards, certain human rights standards, they don't pay, they don't play. And number two, there's certain things trade agreements can never have again, some of them obvious like, for instance, big new protection monopolies for Big Pharma, to jack up medicine prices, the Investor State Dispute Settlement system that has corporations empowered to attack our governments. Basically, the bottom line is all of us progressives, labor unionists, activist, environmentalist, small business people, people of faith, we banded together and we made Trump have to go renegotiate his renegotiate NAFTA. And the deal we got was not perfect. It's not what we're for. We all said it. It's just the floor from which we are going to continue the fight and build onward. So this next piece of business is to remind Congress that NAFTA ain't the fix the new NAFTA is where we start from, and to get them engaged and get your brains engaged. This is that turning around moment, an enormous amount of hard works been done till now. So now, at that point, what do we for? What do we want? We will use this moratorium after winning this moratorium to actually turn around and actually rethink trade. So we get trade policies that support the goals and values that we all support.


Ryan: Rethinking trade is produced by public citizen's global trade watch, I would encourage you to visit rethinktrade.org as well as tradewatch.org to educate yourself and to find out how you can get involved in the work we're doing to fight for fairer and more equitable trade policies.

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Defenders of Trade Policy Status Quo Say Black and Latino Workers Not Hurt by U.S. Trade Policies, Despite Data to the Contrary

Last week, we published a report showing past U.S. trade policies have had a disproportionately negative impact on Black and Latino workers. Defenders of the trade status quo are arguing that our focus on trade-related job loss, downward pressure on wages and income inequality was off base. 

Their main substantive argument was one made for decades by defenders of the trade policy status quo: Even if some workers lost jobs, we all ended up better off because we had access to less expensive, imported stuff. 

Except, that has not been true for most of us for many years. As job offshoring moved up the wage ladder, the losses we suffer in wages now significantly outweigh the savings we get as consumers. Said who? The grandfather of modern trade economics, Nobel laureate Professor Paul Samuelson.

According to standard trade theory, while specific workers who lose their jobs due to imports may suffer, the vast majority of us gain from trade “liberalization” because we can buy cheaper imported goods.

However, as jobs have been offshored from more sectors of the economy and job offshoring has moved into higher wage jobs, this is no longer necessarily true. 

Professor Samuelson published a startling 2004 academic paper that mathematically shows how the offshoring of higher-paid jobs to countries like China and India can cause U.S. workers to lose more from reduced wages than they gain from cheaper imported goods. I recommend reading the paper, even if you skip the mathematic formulas through which he proves this point. Because this is the scholar whose groundbreaking work applying the theory of free trade to modern economic realities is the basis of the trade-liberalization-is-a-net-gain-for-all fact so widely accepted. Except, it no longer holds true, and he explains quite clearly why this is the case.

A few years before Professor Samuelson’s paper, the non-partisan Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) applied the actual trade flow, consumer price and employment and wage data to the theorem. They found that when you compared the lower prices of cheaper goods to the income lost from low-wage competition under status quo trade policies, the trade-related wage losses outweigh the gains in cheaper goods for the majority of U.S. workers. The CEPR study found that U.S. workers without college degrees (61% of the workforce) lost an amount equal to about 10% of their wages, even after accounting for the benefits of cheaper goods. That meant a net loss of more than $3,500 per year for a worker earning the then-median annual wage of $35,540.

At the time, CEPR’s findings were widely attacked. And then Professor Samuelson’s paper showed that what they found was not a fluke or some anomalous years of data, but rather the new reality.

Since then, other proponents of trade liberalization have published papers discussing permanent, significant trade-related wage losses for many – for instance David Autor and colleagues with respect to China trade. And there also is broad consensus in the economics field that the wage suppressing feature of trade liberalization is a major contributor to income inequality here. The other critiques of our report on trade-impacts on Black and Latino workers fall into the category of distracting statistical gymnastics and misdirection.

We point out that in the decades since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and China’s entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO), the United States has lost millions of higher-paying manufacturing jobs. We found that Black and Latino workers were disproportionately employed in nine of the ten sectors hardest hit.

The standard counter argument that the U.S. economy created millions of jobs during the same period is irrelevant. Even if overall unemployment remained low because lower-paying service sector jobs were being created, Black and Latino workers disproportionately lost better-paying manufacturing jobs, and as a result they suffered significant wage losses. Trade policy shapes the quality or types of jobs available for people of different education levels, and thus affects wages. Other factors, such as fiscal and monetary policy, generally have a greater influence on the total number of jobs available in an economy.

Or as a National Bureau of Economic Research study puts it more formally: “Offshoring to low wage countries and imports [are] both associated with wage declines for U.S. workers. We present evidence that globalization has led to the reallocation of workers away from high wage manufacturing jobs into other sectors and other occupations, with large declines in wages among workers who switch.”

Speaking about wages, the standard counter argument critics have also raised, that average hourly wages have grown in the past two decades, is the same as saying there has been inflation. What counts is inflation-controlled real median wages – what our earnings can buy and how much the majority of us are making.

Economists now widely name “increased globalization and trade openness” as a key explanation for the unprecedented failure of wages to keep pace with productivity, as noted in Federal Reserve Bank research. Even economists who defend status-quo trade policies attribute much of the wage-productivity disconnect to a form of “labor arbitrage” that allows multinational firms to continually offshore jobs to lower-wage countries.

And finally, critics raised the most recent go-to, if false, argument about automation and technology having caused manufacturing job loss, not trade. If you want to see the data, check out this paper but here’s the gist of it:

First, investment in automation actually slowed during the post-2000 period of mass manufacturing job loss. However, during that period, the U.S. trade deficit exploded. Researchers have found that job displacement from technology is at its lowest level in decades now, even as the automation-not-trade argument has become increasingly popular among defenders of the trade status quo.

Second, data often used to show that automation-caused manufacturing job loss are premised on a basic misinterpretation. The popular view is that, because the value of what is being produced in the U.S. manufacturing sector has grown even as millions of manufacturing jobs were lost, each manufacturing worker is producing more because factories were automated.

Labor economist Susan Houseman at the Upjohn Institute showed that this story is based on the mistaken assumption that productivity growth reflects the rise of automation. In fact, the growth in U.S. manufacturing output comes mainly from just one sector: computers and electronics and has to do with how new iterations of machinery are valued. Overall manufacturing output today is only 8% higher than in the 1990s and remains lower than before the Great Recession.

Bottom line: Even accounting for Americans’ access to cheaper imported goods, the current trade model’s downward pressure on wages outweighs those gains, making most Americans net losers. And sadly, given our nation’s history of structural racism that has permeated the workplace, education, housing and more, our report’s findings may have been foreseeable: While working-class Americans of all races and ethnicities lost from the trade policies enacted by the United States over the past several decades, Black and Latino workers were overrepresented relative to their share of the workforce in industries that were hardest hit, and they lived in parts of the country that were slammed.

Add to that all of the non-trade corporate protectionism that lards up our “trade” agreements and no doubt we need to rethink our trade policies. At issue is what rules of the global economy can deliver for the most people and remedy past wrongs – not whether we should trade or not.

It is important to differentiate between free trade and our current “trade” agreements. Because one of the critiques to our study, by the conservative group National Taxpayers Union, focused on tariff cuts, it’s worth noting that today’s trade pacts are not mainly about cutting tariffs to expand trade. 

For instance, most of the chapters of the NAFTA, USMCA or WTO – as well as the now thankfully-defunct Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – actually have nothing to do with traditional trade matters like cutting tariffs, opening quotas, standardizing customs procedures and the like. Instead, these pacts set binding rules to which every signatory country must conform their medicine patents and pricing, financial regulatory, food safety, government procurement and other policies. 

Consider the raw protectionism for pharmaceutical companies in these pacts that help pharmaceutical firms avoid generic competition for longer and keep prices high. As we envision the philosophers of free trade - Adam Smith and David Ricardo - rolling in their graves at a high velocity at the prospect of  “free trade” agreements mandating that governments provide new rent-seeking opportunities for protected industries, let us contemplate how we got into this mess. 

With 500 official U.S. trade advisors representing corporate interests historically given special access to the policy process, while the public, press and largely Congress have been shut out, it should not be surprising that corporate interests thoroughly captured the U.S. trade policy process. 

By hijacking the good name of “free trade” and taking advantage of a uniquely non-transparent policymaking process, they transformed trade agreements into delivery mechanisms for an array of retrograde policies – many of which failed when pursued in Congress and state legislatures. 

Instead of fighting about whether there was damage, given the data and people’s lived experience verify it, hopefully we can focus forward together on what new approach could deliver for more people in this country and around the world. 

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Rethinking Trade - Season 1 Episode 24: How US Trade Policies Disproportionately Impact Black and Latino Workers

In this episode, Lori is joined by Dolores Huerta, co-founder with Cesar Chaves of the United farm Workers and renowned civil rights activist, to discuss our Trade Discrimination report. This new research reveals how decades of corporate-rigged trade policies have disproportionately impacted Black and Latino workers.

In her decades of labor and civil rights activism, Huerta has witnessed how corporate-rigged globalization has gutted Latino and Black livelihoods and communities nationwide.

Trade Discrimination: The Disproportionate, Underreported Damage to U.S. Black and Latino Workers From U.S. Trade Policies, published this week at Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, details how U.S. structural, race-based social and economic inequities that undermine the economic and social welfare of people of color have been further exacerbated by U.S. trade policies. You can find the report here.

Transcribed by Sally King

Ryan: Hey, everybody, and welcome back to rethinking trade. We have a special episode this week because Global Trade Watch has just released a report called Trade Discrimination the Disproportionate Underreported Damage to U.S. Black and Latino Workers from U.S. Trade Policies. You can find the report linked in the description of this episode or at tradewatch.org joining Lori and I to discuss the very real stories behind all the data in the report is legendary labor leader Dolores Huerta. Dolores co-founded the National Farmworkers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers. And she's been a tireless voice for social and economic justice for half a century. Dolores, thank you so much for being here.

Dolores: Well, thank you very much for having me.

Ryan: Lori, why don't you get us started by telling us a little bit about this report. What does the report cover? And what are some of the big takeaways in it?

Lori: Well, the best part of this podcast is Dolores. So let me quickly lay out what the report is about. So a lot of people generally know about the damage that's been caused by corporate-led hyperglobalisation the kind of model that's been implemented over the last several decades by so-called trade agreements like NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, or the World Trade Organization. But that mass outsourcing. And now as we learn with the COVID-19 crisis, the unreliable supply chains. That damage really has been mischaracterized as something that particularly impacted white working-class Americans. And in fact, in his 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump, basically, you know, hasted progressive critique of corporate globalization and job outsourcing and bad trade agreements. But he reframed it into a narrative of resentment with racialized appeals to target white working-class voters as the victims.

 And the reality is this new report called Trade Discrimination finds in looking at the government data on impacts of these trade agreements is that the trade-related decline of us manufacturing and the outsourcing of union call center jobs has had a dire impact on racial minorities. And in fact, in many ways, the damage has fallen disproportionately on people of color in the United States, from these race to the bottom trade agreements. And to some degree, we saw at the 2020 election, working-class voters, namely people who make $50,000 or less coming back to the Democrats in a big swing. That was that and union voters are two of the big reasons why Biden beat Trump. And so now it's kind of on the Democrats to prove to those working-class voters who are giving the democrats another chance that they got it, that the damage is real, and that the Democrats are going to do a new trade policy that actually delivers for working-class people. But part of the deal is the Democrats have to understand who the damaged parties are, and that they have a working-class problem, not just a white working-class problem. So here are the highlights of what our report of both surveying the other studies that have been done, but we did a lot of original data crunching shows with respect to how and why Black and Latino workers have suffered disproportionate injury. First of all, Black and Latino workers were disproportionately employed in the manufacturing industries that were the hardest hit by offshoring and import competition. So for instance, Black workers are about 10 and a half percent of the entire labor force when NAFTA starts, but they represented 14%, paper manufacturing 12% and chemicals 12% in transportation equipment, the auto sector trucks. So those are sectors that got flattened by NAFTA and China entering the WTO. Latinos were just under 9% of the labor force, but they were 12 and a half percent of the workers in manufactured fabricated metals, they were 12% of furniture 10 and a half percent of plastics and rubber. And the beverages industry are lots of imports are not coming from Mexico, had both over-represented African American Latino workers. Now, if you look at the sectors that got hit, and the sectors we have the biggest new trade deficits, you have just massive job losses, where the Bureau of Labor Statistics, for instance, shows that black workers have lost nearly a half a million manufacturing jobs since NAFTA and the WTO. And so it was in part because the workers were in the sectors that there were explosions of deficits in manufacturing industries are offshoring. But that also then caused a huge stagnation in wages, because wages were basically flat in those industries, as there were lots of workers who no longer have those jobs now fighting for the same jobs, fewer numbers of them, compared to, you know, hospitality, and leisure, which pays a lot less to start with, didn't have great growth in wages, but they grew.

So as those jobs were disappearing, the other thing that really clobbered Black and Latino workers were where the jobs were leaving from. So the 20 US states that are the least racially diverse, had only 20% of all government certified trade job losses during NAFTA and WTO. But, for instance, the 15 states that are home to 85% of the total Latino population in the US represent over half of the certified trade job losses. The 15 states that are home to 85% of the Black population accounted for basically 3 million of the 4 million total manufacturing job losses. So not only was it that African Americans and Latinos were in the sectors of the economy clobbered, but they were in the parts of the country that got clobbered. And so cities like Detroit, Chicago, Pittsburgh, New York, Cleveland, that were incredibly hard to hit. We're also locations where Latinos had come particularly from Mexico several decades ago, more recently from Central America, to seek better lives in the manufacturing sector. 6 million black workers fleeing from racial terror and poverty in the Jim Crow South had fled to the manufacturing sector in the north and create vibrant communities in the first half of the 1900s. So this devastation in the sectors and in the parts of the country in the numbers of jobs also resulted in basically reinforcing existing structural racism because black and Latino workers who lost their jobs ended up having a much harder time than their white counterparts finding a replacement job According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Certainly part of that is just racial discrimination, hiring, and promotion, etc. But then, the phenomenon basically of increased competition for a reduced number of well-paying jobs available to people without college degrees, then exacerbates these underlying racial discriminatory practices. So basically, after 25 years of NAFTA and WTO, the racial gaps in wage levels are in some areas wider have basically not closed with, for instance, black men earning 75 cents and Latino men earning 64 cents for every dollar earned by white men, black women earning 88 cents and Latinas 78 cents for every dollar earned by a white woman. And instead of getting better, those gaps have either stayed or gotten worse, which, you know, partially is our structural racism, but a big piece of it is the disappearance of the good union, middle-class jobs, that the trade agreements basically incentivize to be offshored and fostered a huge wave of job-killing imports. So that is the sum of this study, it challenges the conventional wisdom. And then the real question is what happened on the ground, and Dolores has been traveling around the country speaking in communities for decades. And so it's our honor to have her here to basically describe some of what this is actually meant practically that's the data, but what it meant to people. And you were one of the people who predicted this in the early 1990s. So, Dolores, I wanted you to tell a little bit of the stories that you were telling me back then, of what you thought was going to happen both to the apparel workers Latinas, in LA, two people working in making blue jeans on the border to people in the Central Valley, in the various Green Giant and other plants. And then what also happened to people in Mexico under this corporate trade regime?

Dolores: Well, we saw, what happened is that workers were devastated that the loss of workers is terrible. And we're talking about thousands and thousands of workers that have been left without jobs throughout the United States. And not only in Los Angeles, with places like Texas, places in the south, places in New York, the whole garment industry with his were totally destroyed. And every time that they talk about the trade wars, the one thing they forget to mention is that the corporations are really behind all of this, you know, like you have a right now in the United States, we have all of these 99 cent stores and dollar stores or whatever, that, you know, sell the cheap goods that come from China and other places. But none of the manufacturing has been done in the United States by us workers.

And it's had a devastating effect on our economy and on the workforce, but also on the political scene. So when you have so many people that are clamoring for jobs in the United States, and when you go to some of these cities in the Midwest, particularly where you had all of these factories, and you see these abandoned buildings, and then, of course, it's affected the tax base, because you don't have money coming into these cities, for schools, for libraries for job training programs, for infrastructure. So the economic impact of all of this has been, it just affected the United States terribly. And we see it played out when you have all of these people that put us in this last election, that vote for Donald Trump because people are angry because they don't have jobs. And then we see all of the homeless people on our streets. And, again, you think, "How can this happen?' When we are the richest country in the world, in the United States of America, and we have so many people in poverty, so many people that are homeless, people that have to work two jobs just to be able to pay the rent and pay food. And of course, now with a pandemic, that has also affected us workers. I mean, the devastation continues. And this in this whole notion that somehow people have to work for free, that workers shouldn't be given a living wage, they shouldn't be given a pension plan, they shouldn't be given a medical plan. And, and we don't have, it's the working people that really hold up a society, not only by creating the economic base in the income base, the revenue base of our society. So when you have the basis of your society, that is deteriorated to such a point, that it affects everything. And so, and I think it's also a moral ground when you think about it, that workers should be expected to work for minimum or less than minimum wages, literally for free, when even when they work, they cannot earn enough money, to be able to afford a home or to have a living wage. And so it's almost like making slavery, normal and legal.

Lori: And that is a phenomenon that you've just beautifully described that under the government data explaining what happened after NAFTA in WTO, has hit African American and Latino workers, disproportionately hard. So that 20 US states that are the least racially diverse, had only one-fifth of the government certified trade-related job loss, but the 15 states that are 85% of the total Latino population, they account for over half of the trade job loss of 1.6 million jobs. So I'm thinking about some of the places where Latino workers had built vibrant, middle-class communities, like the industrial workers in Chicago, like many people whose families had migrated to these factory union jobs to create a wonderful middle-class existence in the industrial sector. And I know you travel all over the country, what what are what's happening in those in those communities, Milwaukee has a very strong Latino community relating to the auto sector. And as well, obviously, the textile and apparel sectors all across the country, what's happened with these communities? Where El Paso where lembu hair obrera has organized valiantly, but they still lost 25,000 sewing jobs. What is your experience of what's going on in these communities now?

Dolores: Well, people live in poverty, they live in extreme poverty. And a lot of people they have to go to the service jobs, which of course, don't pay very well. And so again, it just means an increase in poverty, but it only affects people in terms of their income levels, but their educational levels so that people can't afford to go to college, that people can afford to have businesses. And then of course, it also displays itself in terms of delinquency, the maybe addiction to us in substance abuse, and of course, the it affects the health. And we've seen the pandemic, how the over the COVID-19 has affected Hispanics, and people are getting infected at a higher rate, people are dying at a higher rate. So it has all of these manifestations that come with poverty. And so it is, you might it reaches deep into the community. And it affects all of the social strata, the educational policies that I just mentioned. And it puts people at risk, basically, for everything that possibly could happen to people that are in poverty is happening to them. And then of course, and I do believe that part of the mass incarceration policies also have to do with the lack of job opportunities, because we have seen the mass incarceration that kind of came at the same time, as you have mentioned before, in your reports, that the mass incarceration systems coincide with these global trade policies and the export of jobs to other countries here in the United States. I think whoever does these social designs, I don't know whether they plan it this way, or it just happens that way. But it seems like they do coincide so that people's lives are not only do they have to live in poverty, but their whole careers and features are taken from them when they are when they are jailed. And you have these harsh criminal sentences that keep people in prison for years and years and years.

Lori: I'm wondering, as you've traveled around the country, and you are a heroine in so many Latino communities where you're celebrating you speak across the country, what you actually observed in Latino communities. And how have they been how what is your experience of how they've been directly impacted by the job loss from NAFTA from China trade? Do you have some memories personally, because you've been traveling the country for so many years that you actually have lived the timeline, from the highest rate of unionization and the strongest manufacturing base? You've lived through the whole period of deindustrialization. And what are your personal memories of some of these communities and what you've seen this shift do?

Dolores: Well, I think one of the hardest areas that have been hit I mentioned before, was the on the educational level. And even here in California, for instance, or we are like the fifth largest economy in the world, and that we could actually be a country and, again, have one of the richest states that we have in the United States of America. And yet we have such high poverty rates. For instance, in terms of the amount of money that is going to for education for our children in California, where California where that was going to school many decades ago, we were number one in the country, in terms of the amount of money that we gave per student, per education. Now we are number 39 in the country. And this is ability adversely affected people, young people of color. And, and it's not just in California, it's the same thing that happens when you go to Arizona, when you go to Texas, when you go to the Midwest, in Chicago, when you go to New York State, you have the same thing that is happening now that our children of color, are not getting an equitable education. And, and so this is true all over the United States of America. And it seems that somehow, is our black and brown communities expand and we know that they are growing in the United States of America get the amount of money that is there for education is shrunk. And it is shrunken in such a major way that all of these young people of color are not getting an equitable education. And this is, of course, going to have a lot of impacts in terms of the future of our country. When all of these young people, I mean, you know, hundreds of thousands every other graduate from high school. And of course, you have the ones that don't even finish high school, that this is going to have a big effect on our economy in the future.

Lori: Certainly the deindustrialization. But also now increasingly, the offshoring of union call centers, the offshoring of information technology, jobs, and medical transcription, jobs, and engineering jobs, this race to the bottom has gutted the tax bases of cities, and small towns across the country. And so that the students who are relying on the public schools, versus who have a way to buy their way into a private school to get a good education, what you're saying is, those are the students that are being the most impacted, which then just continues a trend of poverty.

Dolores: Yeah, and at the same time, these are the populations that are growing the fastest.

Lori: So for the future of our country, the rising majority, under this paradigm of race to the bottom, globalization, which has stolen so many good jobs and gutted the tax base, is basically creating a majority population that has not will have neither the quality education of previous generations. And that will not find the jobs that pay well, for people who don't have higher education, it's a real catch-22 is you said, it's like some kind of social design.

Dolores: And when you think about the only way that poor people can survive, again, I mentioned a little while ago, where you have all of these outlets that sell goods that come from China. And when we think about, you know, this is the only way that poor people can survive, is to, they're the ones that actually go to those stores for the things that they need. And so the system and perpetuates itself, it doesn't really give any remedies that just say people sustain themselves by going to the dollar store, even for groceries, you know, because they sell groceries now. And this is the only way that they can possibly survive is by being the consumers and sustainers of this poverty system.

Lori: So that is a downward spiral for sure. And when Joe Biden was running for president, he talked a lot about his build back better plan. And one of the things that's a big priority, and that plan is creating more manufacturing capacity, doing more investment in domestic jobs and education. And he has basically tried to think about how not only can we get out of the COVID economic crunch, but that when we come on the other side of it, we've actually invested to be in a better place than before the COVID-19 crisis happened. Do you have a sense that Joe Biden understands these very real dynamics that you're describing? And that he can we'll do something about it?

Dolores: I don't know. I think that's the question. The big question is, how do you get these corporations to cooperate? Because they don't really, I don't think they care. As long as prophets have their motive, and they want to make as much money as possible. I think they're going to continue to the system that gives them the greatest wealth. And I don't know that Joe Biden can rein them in, or what he can do to save them, you got to come back to the US, and you've got to pay taxes in the United States of America. You know, we recently lost proposition 13 here in California that we were all working on, that proposition would have been in $12 billion, 60% of it would have gone to our local communities, which are hurting because of COVID-19. And the other 40% would have gone to our school systems. But the corporations that they, you know, they got together and they spent all this money that they could, and ended the tax of this money that would have come in for this $12 billion would have come in from the wealthy corporations like Amazon, Disney, Chevron, only 10% of the wealthy corporations that work in California would have valued 2% of the money would have come from those very mega-corporations, but they did everything that they could to defeat it. So I think that is like a mirror that really shows that these wealthy corporations don't give a damn if our kids get an education or not. They don't really care if people live in poverty. And so the big question is, how was the president-elect, Biden going to rein these corporations and even when you're talking about, about, you know, Medicare for all, they will not stand up to the big pharmaceuticals and, and these big insurance companies, which is, the only way that we can get Medicare for All is by taking these, these people are out of the health business and, you know, giving the money to doctors and hospitals and nurses and the people that do tend to the, to the people that are sick, and not to these middle managers. And I don't know Joe Biden's going to be able to do that. He back down on Medicare already, because they just have such a powerful lobby, powerful communication systems. And the general public has no clue about what it what that even means, you know, they call it, quote-and-quote, socialism, and something that you have to be afraid of?

 Lori: Well, one thing you told me back during NAFTA, when we were moping, and in, in a very blue mood about how we would get some of the California Democratic members of Congress to vote against NAFTA. And, you know, I remember saying, boy, they're really convinced they don't want to vote against NAFTA, all these corporations are telling them, they have to vote for NAFTA. And I remember you saying something, like, we're just gonna have to make them do it, we're gonna have to organize. And that's been your whole life. That's something you've taught me, you've taught generations of people, that the companies don't want to do the thing that's good for the people, you have to make them do it. And so it strikes me that in a weird way, the COVID-19 crisis provided a lesson for a lot of people who aren't the working people who already knew that this system was rigged against them. All those people who you know, don't work in a factory, don't do a service job that isn't a doctor or a lawyer suddenly have this experience of somehow in the richest country in the world, they couldn't get the things they need it because we don't make it anymore. And it was suddenly a wake-up call that here we are, and they couldn't get masks, and no one could make masks and someone could die because they couldn't have a ventilator. And we couldn't make ventilators. And it just makes me wonder as you know, your that you are the Empress of organizing, what your view is about how we can leverage this unifying experience of how screwed we are in a country that can't make things anymore, to try and get some of the people who haven't really cared about what happens to the people who make things. But because they're the people who buy things, they're now also the people who are on the losing end of this version of trade and globalization. What is your view of how we can basically organize the people who make the stuff we're used to the people who bought the stuffing cans to make Joe Biden do the right thing?

Dolores: Well, I think it will continue the organizing, and I have a lot of hope. I mean, we have seen all the young people that are marching out there and on the issues of racial justice. And somehow I have said this before, but I know back in the 60s and the 70s, we had a cultural revolution in the United States of America. But you know, that's when the LGBTQ movement got, really, you might say, it grew so much, and the environmental justice movement was just starting. The woman's movement was like, in its second or third phase. The Civil Rights Movement made a lot of changes. And but I think this next revolution and ethics got it, the young people that wasn't gonna have to lead it. And it's got to be an economic revolution. I think before it might have been iffy because people didn't really feel the pain that much. But now I think people are not only feeling the pain but seeing the pain because you can't walk down a single street without or any city in America without seeing homeless people on the street. It's so it's all very, very visible now, and maybe doubted that we were going to this pandemic, this might be a good time to really start uplifting those messages and explaining to people like you do with your great work that you're doing on the research so that you can actually show people the data, as you're doing and say, "Look, this is what it looks like this is what's happening." And so, especially younger people that may have said, Well, I don't know how this all happened, I was just, you know, born into this, this system and this situation. And you can say, "No, this is how it happened. And these are the people that are making it happen. Okay, so now it's time for us to address this, and do it in a mass way," the way that people are now organizing around racial justice. And I think we saw one little piece of this when the republicans were trying to get rid of Obamacare. And so you had people demonstrating at the opposite of all of these senators, and Congress people that were involved in trying to get rid of Obamacare, and they back down. So it's got to be that same type of organizing. And I know it's a little bit more difficult with the virtual organizing. But I think the main thing is that we have to get people to understand and to see this, to see what's happened, because people really can't take action until they understand. And once they understand, then we can go for the solutions, and then put the pressure on the big corporations.

Lori: Ladies and gentlemen, you heard it here. First, Dolores Huerta, one of the deans of political organizing strategy and progress in the United States of America has given us our marching orders. And that is Dolores. That is spot on. And we can't tell you how much we appreciate the honor, you've honored us by coming to be on this podcast and sharing your wisdom. And so we will see you at the barricades as we fight for a trade system that is just for working people. And that puts the corporations on the receiving end of the limitations, not the environment, not the workers, not our health. Thank you so much.

 Dolores: Now, thank you for inviting me, and thank you for sharing your wisdom and your research and all of your great energy. Thank you very much, Lori. I feel honored.

Ryan: Rethinking trade is produced by Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, I would encourage you to visit rethink trade org as well as tradewatch.org to educate yourself and to find out how you can get involved in the work we're doing to fight for fairer and more equitable trade policies.

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Must-Read Piece on the WTO

By Lori Wallach

Farah Stockman has done a great service in writing about the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Thursday’s New York Times in a way that is compelling and accessible. The siloed, practically religiously devoted defenders of the WTO (the Knights Templar WTO) are in a tizzy that the secrets of the palace are being revealed, but the comments section on the New York Times website shows how eager most people are to understand how this organization has failed them and what would do better.

The op-ed merits a read and share to get as many eyes on it as possible, and the comments are some of the most informative and interesting of any piece I’ve seen.

Read The W.T.O. Is Having a Midlife Crisis!

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Season 1 Episode 23: U.S. Officials Are Blocking Global COVID-19 Vaccine Access at the WTO

World Trade Organization (WTO) rules undermine access to COVID-19 vaccines and medicines. That’s why scores of countries are demanding that the WTO’s monopoly protections for pharmaceutical corporations be temporarily waived so COVID-19 vaccines and treatments can be produced worldwide. This is essential to ensure enough affordable doses to end the pandemic and save lives.

But U.S. trade officials are blocking the waiver, insisting that even during this deadly global pandemic, Big Pharma profits should come first. The question is: Will this position change under a Biden administration?

Click here to take action.

Click here to learn more.

Transcribed by Sally King

Ryan: Welcome back to rethinking trade, where we don't just talk about trade policy, we like to change it, and Ryan and I'm joined once again by our new house trade expert, Lori Wallach, the World Trade Organization is meeting, as we record this podcast, and one of the items on their agenda, it's going to have a huge impact on the world's access to COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. That's because the WTO intellectual property rules were designed to protect the Big Pharma giants, not the people who need medicines to survive. Lori, could you tell us what is happening right now at the WTO? What trade related intellectual property rights are. And what they have to do with the covid 19 pandemic?

Lori: So let's take one step back, the World Trade Organization enforces a dozen plus agreements, including the old trade rules which are called GATT, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, that's the part that really is about trade. One of those other agreements is the thing you just mentioned Trade Related Intellectual Property rights which is often called TRIPS. That is basically the antithesis of free trade, that is a set of monopoly protections. Every WTO signatory country is obliged to guarantee to big pharmaceutical corporations, and that includes a guarantee of a 20 year monopoly for any medicine, it creates periods of exclusivity over the data used to prove a drug is safe so that the generic manufacturers sometimes have to wait even longer. All of those kind of rules of course are really the opposite of what you think of for free trade, right? Competition. Those are rules designed to block competition to give monopoly powers to pharmaceutical firms they can charge any damn price they want for medicines. So in the face of having that imposed on 160 countries worldwide. Were all the least developed countries are required to have these very stringent monopoly protections for big pharmaceutical firms, a set of countries like South Africa and India came in with a proposal now supported by dozens of countries, and that was to waive those pharmaceutical company monopoly rights for temporarily anything during the COVID crisis that is necessary for the production of treatments of vaccines and the technologies around the production so the actual medicines and also the know how to produce them. And it's really obvious why to do this. We need to get billions of doses of vaccines, hundreds of millions of doses of treatments, and the only way the whole world is going to get better is if the whole world is better. It's an epidemic. So it's actually in the interest of people all around the world to get enough of the vaccine made so that there's no one who can't get it, and quickly. But right now the way that WTO rules are set up, if a country, for instance, simply copied the vaccine, or insisted that the company provide the know how for how to copy the vaccine that it would be in violation of these WTO rules, and a country's imperative to save lives with subject country to indefinite trade sanctions. So a developing country would have huge penalties billions of dollars put against its actual exports needed to keep this country going because they put people's lives first. And what would that process actually look like if a country was held in violation?

Lori: Well let's just be super concrete, because Sadly, this is not the first time this has happened during the peak of the AIDS epidemic when hundreds of 1000s people were dying antiretroviral treatments were available, but they were so prohibitively expensive that throughout the developing world in Brazil and South Africa. People are dying needlessly for whom, if generic versions of these medicines could have been produced their lives would have been the life of a person in the US or Europe with AIDS, which is basically the antiretrovirals would make it a treatable pill perennial but treatable disease. Instead of having a chronic treated disease, people all over the global south are dying and countries started to want to make their own medicines and some developing countries have the capacity. India can do it. Argentina can do it. South Africa. Brazil. And the United States, on behalf of its big pharmaceutical companies, basically threatened to go to the WTO and attack those specific countries for violating these trade agreement pharma monopoly rules, instead of basically helping those countries try and save the lives of their people who had HIV or AIDS. And that case ended up blowing up because that was, for folks who remember, when Al Gore was running for president, people from amped up or falling around busting into his event screaming, “Greed kills.” That was a WTO trips case. That was the get them to back down the Clinton Administration on these attacks using WTO against HIV AIDS medicines. So what happens with the sanctions is practical. One of these WTO tribunals decides that some countries, health law is a violation of the WTO rules. And then the country is told you have 90 days to get rid of that regime for making medicine available that pharmaceutical generic company. And if you don't, then we're going to impose penalties on all of your exports what that means practically is for instance, every good that a developing country would export will be hit with a huge tariff on the way into other countries. So that basically it's like a strangle. It's basically we're going to choke you to death if you don't change and we're going to do that by cutting off your exports.

Ryan: I know there's an effort underway right now to pressure the US and other countries to support this waiver at the WTO and prioritize responding to the pandemic over protecting Big Pharma intellectual property rights. But ultimately, who has the power to change the US position here, and also what are the prospects of this position changing under the incoming Biden administration?

Lori: Ryan, that is exactly the question to ask. So, who has the power to change this? This is a position that's taken in the executive branch, it doesn't require Congress to pass anything, whomever is the President and the President's top trade official the US Trade Representative decides the positions the United States would take at the World Trade Organization, the United States sits in a council it's called the general council, with the other countries who are signatories to the WTO the general council takes positions. If the United States, which under the Trump administration has joined Europe and a handful of other countries who are the homes of the big pharmaceutical corporations to block this proposal if the US changes sides, something the bind administration could do without Congress again and then what it would look like is instructions go from the White House to the US representatives of the WTO in Geneva, and they go to that meeting which the next one right now the meeting, we're going to say the wrong thing. The US is going to say the wrong thing. So when it needs to get in January, that General Counsel the US can go in and say we now join those countries that want to temporarily waive the WTO special monopoly protections for Big Pharma. It's a temporary waiver until the epidemic crisis is over, it only applies to those medicines and technologies, with respect to vaccines and treatments for this crisis, but we join putting public health first, that's all it would take. And who can make that happen? Well, that's us. So we all need to be taking action to contact our members of the House, or members of the Senate. And frankly, as soon as Joe Biden is sworn in the White House which will be taking, of course, the usual hotline emails and letters. And the reason to get Congress engaged is this is not a one off. So these WTO rules in this particular waiver is extremely urgent. It's literally going to make the difference between life and death of people the world in relation to the COVID-19 epidemic. But this is a fight that we started with the NAFTA renegotiation. When we got the most extreme Big Pharma giveaways that Trump added to the old NAFTA making it worse; we got that out. But we need, as the United States of America, to have a new position, about these kinds of farmer protections in trade agreements, they don't belong there at all. It's not just that the WTO rules should be waived but rather we negotiate these terms. So we're putting people's health. First, yes we want to reward innovation. So when a company comes up with a great invention there are ways to reward that but the amount of time. And what's the balances between people getting access to medicine, and the gluttonous profits that these big pharma companies make is a real problem, because this is something where on the first day, the Biden administration can show. They're going a different way on trade, you're going to put people over profits to kind of put health over Big Pharma. And this is one of those things they can do on their own, if we all join in and push them to do it.

Ryan: And if you go to rethinktrade.org you can scroll to the bottom to the take action section and you can send a letter from there to your representative and senators. and on the eyes on trade blog, which I'll link in the bio of this episode, you can read more about the WTO TRIPS issue. Rethinking Trade is produced by Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. I would encourage you to visit rethinktrade.org as well as tradewatch.org to educate yourself and to find out how to fight for fair or equitable trade policies.

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