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Why renegotiate? In the fifteen years since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was established, the flow of goods across national borders has increased and the profits of multinational corporations have been augmented. However, the social and economic costs to the majority of North Americans have been considerable. The level of economic inequality has soared in all three countries, and NAFTA's side agreements to protect labor and environmental standards proved weak and unenforceable.

NAFTA's provisions for protecting the rights of foreign investors, on the other hand, have been successfully used in all three countries to challenge local and state regulations protecting public health and the environment.

The United States has lost millions of industrial jobs that paid decent wages and benefits, and corporations have used the threat of exporting jobs to reduce wages and benefits even for the unionized factories that remain in the USA and Canada.

The industrial jobs created in Mexico were primarily poorly paid and insecure, and, in recent years, many of those jobs were relocated to China.

Many small subsistence farmers in Mexico lost their ability to earn a living, forcing many of them to cross the border in a desperate search for work.

At the beginning of 2008, the provisions of NAFTA required that the few remaining protections for basic foodstuffs had to be dismantled in Mexico, and hundreds of thousands of peasants took to the streets demanding that NAFTA be renegotiated.

A strong citizens' movement in Canada is also demanding that NAFTA be renegotiated.

"Free trade" agreements like NAFTA are increasingly unpopular with many working Americans, particularly union members and families.

The issue played a pivotal role in electing several proponents of "fair trade" in the 2006 congressional elections.

In the key primary states of Ohio and Texas, fair trade advocates secured written statements by both Senators Clinton and Obama that, if elected, they would renegotiate NAFTA.

Both promised to include enforceable labor and environmental standards, and both promised, albeit more vaguely, to reexamine clauses that excessively favored investor interests.

Although neither candidate has in the past been a strong critic of "free trade," they had to respond to the evident demands of a wide spectrum of the electorate. Thus far, however, the trade debate between the Obama and Clinton campaigns has been more about smearing the other candidate's record as a tactical approach to winning specific states rather than a broad strategy designed to win the general election or build political support for a new "fair trade" policy.

None the less, the 2008 general election campaign will feature an ongoing debate on "free" versus "fair" trade, particularly in those states that have suffered trade-related job losses. Senator McCain wholeheartedly supports NAFTA and other "free trade" agreements that primarily benefit the multinational corporations and economic elites. Whether it be Obama or Clinton, the Democratic candidate will have to advocate substantial reforms in U.S. trade policies.

However, both the Clinton and Obama campaigns are financially supported by business interests that favor "free trade," and both candidates are advised by economic policy analysts who are "free traders"-raising a substantial question about the willingness and ability of any elected Democratic president to fulfill the electoral promise to renegotiate NAFTA.

So campaign rhetoric does not guarantee a major change in policy. What will help make a difference is a strong citizen's movement for fair trade after Election Day. We must take steps now to build grassroots support for renegotiating NAFTA that will make it more difficult for the new administration to avoid or backburner the issue of fair trade and NAFTA.

This petition is intended to help build broad public support for renegotiating NAFTA between now and the first months after the inauguration of the new administration. It provides a vehicle to register the support of individual American citizens for making renegotiating NAFTA not a mere tactical slogan for a political campaign but, in fact, a genuine grassroots demand for fair trade policies that encourage the creation of decent jobs at decent wages.

Principles of Fair Trade - Applicable to the NAFTA Treaty Any renegotiation of NAFTA should conform to the following points:

  • To safeguard national sovereignty and democratic rights, the Chapter 11 "investor-state" clause, which gives investors the right to sue governments over measures taken in the public interest, should be eliminated. This clause is one of many provisions that favor the rights of foreign investors over the democratic rights of citizens.
  • The agreement must return to governments the ability to safeguard food sovereignty by protecting family and small-scale subsistence farmers. Large-scale importation of basic grains into Mexico is a major cause of the economic collapse of rural communities, which forces millions of undocumented migrants to seek work in the USA. Tariffs that offset subsidies on imported agricultural commodities should be permitted.
  • Provisions that discourage food safety laws by prohibiting labeling, traceability and identification of country of origin must be repealed. Consumers have the right to know the origins and production methods of their imported foods.
  • Nothing in the agreement should prohibit governments from taking measures necessary to protect the environment and natural resources such as water and energy supplies from overuse and exploitation.
  • The current weak and unenforceable "side agreement" to protect labor must be replaced by enforceable provisions that fully safeguard workers' rights in all countries. This is essential to reverse the rapid increase in social and economic inequality that is fueling a "race to the bottom" in living standards.
  • The agreement should return to governments the right to use procurement policies to promote national development and job creation. Trade agreements should not limit the ability of governments at any level to support local employment and other social and environmental goods.
  • Each country should have the right to preserve its cultural heritage and support an informed citizenry through policies that protect locally produced films, television and other media products.
  • Major development assistance should be provided to poorer regions to reduce inequalities and thereby reduce the incentive for residents to relocate to other countries out of desperate economic need. Substantial trade adjustment assistance should be provided to workers and communities in regions suffering from major economic dislocations.
  • A new, impartial and transparent mechanism should be developed for settling disputes and should be open to public scrutiny in all affected countries.
  • All other future or renegotiated treaties for international trade should also adhere to the same principles. Furthermore:
  • A complete study and review of the impact of NAFTA should commence immediately. This process should include extensive public and legislative hearings throughout the USA and the other North American countries. Civil society organizations and movements, as well as state and local governments, should be invited to participate in this review.
  • The Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) process should be terminated immediately. This attempt to revise NAFTA under the aegis of the large multinational corporations (joined in the North American Competitiveness Council), together with heads of state, without public input or scrutiny, is the polar opposite of the genuine democratic process that is needed to renegotiate NAFTA and develop fair and just treaties.

Take Action -- Sign the petition to renegotiate NAFTA:

http://www.renegotiatenafta.org

Please encourage others to do so as well. The petition may be signed online, but paper petitions are available for download as well.

If you're interested in helping us build a movement for "fair trade," please contact us. Any and all people of good will are welcome.

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