Slaughter Pushes Trump Administration to Overhaul NAFTA and Set a New Course on Trade
WASHINGTON, DC — Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (NY-25) pushed United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to completely overhaul the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as the Trump Administration moves forward with rewriting this failed trade agreement. Slaughter’s call follows the administration’s Federal Register notice for comments as this process gets underway. Rochester has lost half of its manufacturing jobs since this trade deal went into effect, accelerating the pace of globalization in Monroe County and across the country. Slaughter voted against NAFTA and every free trade agreement during her time in Congress, pushing for trade deals that are actually fair to American workers and manufactures.
“Rochester is a textbook example of how NAFTA failed the American worker,” Slaughter wrote. “NAFTA needs a major overhaul, not an expedient agreement in pursuit of a meaningless signing ceremony. This can be accomplished only with a transparent, comprehensive renegotiation that puts the interests of American workers ahead of multinational corporations.”
Slaughter urged the administration to completely overhaul this failed trade agreement, crafting a bipartisan deal that includes enforceable labor and environmental provisions, protects Buy American policies, strengthens rules of origin requirements, and rejects the misguided investor-state dispute settlement procedure (ISDS). ISDS would allow multinational corporations to challenge U.S. laws they don’t like outside of the standard judicial system, which could leave laws on everything from stringent drinking water standards to raising a state’s minimum wage in the hands of unelected and unaccountable arbitrators.
Slaughter has long been considered a leader on fair trade issues and has worked to rebuild America’s manufacturing base. She recently introduced the Trade Enforcement and Trade Deficit Reduction Act to change how we approach international trade and give American workers and manufacturers the tools they need to compete on a level playing field around the globe. The bill would direct the Department of Commerce to withdraw or “snapback” trade concessions like tariff reductions if a trade partner does not live up to its obligations under a free trade agreement or if it adds new tariff or non-tariff trade barriers. It also addresses one of the major missed opportunities for American workers – our skyrocketing trade deficits.
Slaughter has also worked tirelessly to help Rochester manufacturers while defending them from unfair competition overseas. Last year, she led a bipartisan effort with members New York congressional delegation in opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-country megadeal modeled after the job-killing NAFTA. The trade agreement, formally rejected by the president earlier this year, would have given foreign companies increased access to the lucrative American market, forcing U.S. workers to compete with countries such as Vietnam, where the minimum wage is less than 65 cents an hour and workers’ rights are almost nonexistent.
The full text of the letter is below and can be found online here.
United States Trade Representative
600 17th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20508
Dear Ambassador Lighthizer:
As the member of Congress representing Rochester, New York and surrounding area, I share the concerns that many of my constituents have raised against the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). I voted against NAFTA when it was pushed through Congress twenty-four years ago, and the reasons I opposed it then have, unfortunately, proven all too true.
Rochester is a textbook example of how NAFTA failed the American worker. There were 114,000 manufacturing jobs in the Rochester area when the agreement went into effect. After two decades of failed trade agreements modeled on NAFTA, our manufacturing employment is now 57,000 – exactly half of what it once was. The loss of those jobs, coupled with losses at manufacturing suppliers and service providers, has left Rochester with one of the highest poverty rates in the country. While there were certainly many factors that contributed to the decline, it is clear that NAFTA accelerated the pace of globalization that was a major factor behind the loss of local manufacturing jobs.
The decline of manufacturing in Rochester represents only a small portion of those jobs lost nationwide. The Trade Adjustment Assistance program has, using its narrow definition, certified that over 900,000 American jobs have been lost to offshoring and import displacement directly because of NAFTA trade. Those workers reenter the workforce in lower-skilled and lower-wage jobs and are more reliant on safety net programs. NAFTA’s legacy has been a drag on the economy, with wages failing to keep up with productivity and inflation.
The question becomes not whether NAFTA should be renegotiated, but what kind of deal we can expect from the Trump Administration. Recent statements from administration officials indicate that the negotiating agenda may be limited in scope, but this would be a mistake. NAFTA needs a major overhaul, not an expedient agreement in pursuit of a meaningless signing ceremony. This can be accomplished only with a transparent, comprehensive renegotiation that puts the interests of American workers ahead of multinational corporations.
NAFTA should raise standards, not encourage a race to the bottom. This starts with meaningful adherence to the bipartisan “May 10” principles, especially with respect to enforceable labor and environmental provisions. American workers should not be forced to compete against workers in Mexico, where the minimum wage is the equivalent of $3.90 per day. In addition, a new agreement should protect Buy American policies, strengthen rules of origin requirements, and reject the misguided investor-state dispute settlement procedure.
As I mentioned at the meeting of the House Advisory Group on Negotiations on May 17, 2017, I have yet to see a free trade agreement that is fair to American workers and manufacturers. In order to earn my support, a renegotiated NAFTA must set an entirely new course for trade policy.
Louise M. Slaughter
Member of Congress