Business Leaders Lobby Obama to Push Through Harmful FTAs
Three Amigos Summit Ends

OK, We Get It.

President Obama is meeting as we speak with Mexican President Calderon and Canadian Prime Minister Harper, us trade wonks aren't in denial that there's some pretty big issues on the front burner ahead of NAFTA. Drugs cartels and violence. Immigration. Economic meltdown. Anyone? Anyone?

Here's our full statement:

Ok, We Get NAFTA Renegotiation Isn't Obama's Top Priority (Amidst Economic Armageddon) but Americans Expect Him to Deliver on His Commitments to Fix Our Job-Killing Trade Policies...
 
President Obama's Guadalajara, Mexico, "Three Amigos" meeting Sunday with Mexican President Felipe Calderon and Canadian Prime Minster Stephen Harper can't but remind Americans of Obama's oft-repeated campaign commitment:  "One of the first things I'll do as president will be to call the Prime Minister of Canada and the President of Mexico and work with them to fix NAFTA."
 
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is not slated to be a major topic of conversation at the summit. But with U.S. unemployment nearing 10 percent, polls showing Americans' anger about NAFTA-style trade policies and Obama spending this week campaigning in battleground states on the impact of his economic policies, the president cannot forget, "It's the global economy, stupid."
 
Millions of Americans are still waiting for Obama to deliver on his campaign commitment: "NAFTA's shortcomings were evident when signed and we must now amend the agreement to fix them." Since the election, President Obama has reaffirmed his plan to renegotiate NAFTA - including in the face of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's pressure not to do so during Obama's February Canada trip.
 
That NAFTA - its expansion, not renegotiation - is not the main topic of this summit is noteworthy. The Three Amigos process was created for "deepening" NAFTA among its first three nations and pushing NAFTA expansion to 34 nations in the hemisphere through a now-dead Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). Now instead of more NAFTA being discussed, the main trade talk will be about problems caused by NAFTA, among other trade irritants to be aired in bilateral sessions. (Mexico and Canada have trade challenged U.S. truck safety, dolphin protection, food labeling laws and more.)
 
Americans expect relief from the NAFTA trade model that has led to the loss of five million manufacturing jobs - one out of every three- since NAFTA. Last year, Obama committed to fix the core provisions of NAFTA that push down wages, cost U.S. jobs and lead to unsafe food imports. Instead of discussing tweaking the edges of NAFTA, he targeted: 
  • NAFTA's EXTREME FOREIGN INVESTOR PRIVILEGES THAT PROMOTE OFFSHORING  Obama answered "yes" to the question: "Will you commit to renegotiate NAFTA to eliminate its investor rules that allow private enforcement by foreign investors of these investor privileges in foreign tribunals and that give foreign investors greater rights than are provided by the U.S. Constitution as interpreted by our Supreme Court thus promoting offshoring?"  He also said: "While NAFTA gave broad rights to investors, it paid only lip service to the rights of labor and the importance of environmental protection. We should amend NAFTA to make clear that fair laws and regulations written to protect citizens in any of the three countries cannot be overridden simply at the request of foreign investors."
  • NAFTA's MISSING LABOR RIGHTS  "We'll add binding obligations to protect the right to collective bargaining and other core labor standards recognized by the International Labor Organization. And I will add enforceable measures to NAFTA, the World Trade Organization (WTO), CAFTA [Central America Free Trade Agreement] and other Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) currently in effect." "The rights of working people should be equal to those of commercial interests and their protections in trade agreements should be the same. Again, this was a fundamental failing in the NAFTA and CAFTA agreements." 
  • NAFTA'S PROCUREMENT POLICY MEDDLING   Obama answered "yes" to the question: "Do you support renegotiating trade agreements so they will allow us to use "Buy America" and "Buy Local" procurement policies?"
AND, OBAMA WAS SPOT ON ABOUT NAFTA'S AGRICULTURE RULES BEING THE SUPPLY SIDE OF IMMIGRATION PRESSURES.  In a Fortune Magazine interview, Obama said "not only did [NAFTA] have an adverse affect on certain communities that saw jobs move down to Mexico but for example our agricultural section pretty much devastated a much less efficient Mexican farming system. But from a pure economic, you know if you're just an economist looking at this in an abstract way you would say well a more efficient producer displaced a less efficient producer in Mexico, there's nothing wrong with that. As a practical matter those are millions of people in Mexico who are displaced. Many of whom now are moving up to the United States, contributing to the immigration concerns that people are feeling. And so, those human factors should be taken into account. They may not override or [sic] every single decision that we make in respect to trade, but to pretend those costs aren't there, that those costs aren't real, and my job as president to take those into account, I think, does no service to free trade. And its part of what has fed the protection incentive and the anti-immigration incentive that is out there in both parts and you know I think that if we manage trade more effectively, if we're better partners, if we are thinking about the dislocations that occurs as a consequence of it, if were [sic] true to our belief that labor and environmental standards should be a part of raising living standards around the world instead of a race to the bottom, then we can have free trade and it will be sustainable and we will have political support over the long run." 
 
There are high public expectations surrounding President Obama's NAFTA renegotiation plans. Nearly three-quarters of Americans believe that a "free trade agreement" has had a negative effect on their families. (Rasmussen Poll, June 2008)

Majorities oppose NAFTA across every demographic with Catholic, swing, independent and Hispanics voters among the most anti-NAFTA blocs. (Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, September 2008)

GOP voters, by a two-to-one majority, agree that "[f]oreign trade has been bad for the U.S. economy, because imports from abroad have reduced demand for American-made goods, cost jobs here at home, and produced potentially unsafe products." (Wall Street Journal-NBC News Poll, September 2007)
 
And just last month, legislation was introduced in Congress that delivers on the broad public expectation that Congress and the president will forge a new trade policy that creates jobs, ensures import safety and fixes past damaging agreements like NAFTA, as they have promised. The Trade Reform, Accountability, Development and Employment (TRADE) Act is cosponsored by 116 House members-nearly half the entire Democratic caucus, including 10 full committee chairs, 49 subcommittee chairs and members spanning the full range of Democratic caucuses and geography.
 
Just in case anyone needs a refresher on how intense American demand is for a NAFTA fix, check out some clips from the Great American Anti-NAFTA Off - otherwise known as the Democratic presidential primary.

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