Economic Liberties | 27 January 2023
The Biden administration can only achieve its laudable “worker-centered” trade policy for the Americas by fixing the existing US trade deals with most prospective APEP partners and building on solid new foundations
Washington, D.C. – Today, as USTR Katherine Tai and Secretary of State Tony Blinken hosted a virtual ministerial meeting revealing initial countries interested in negotiating on a proposed Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity (APEP), Rethink Trade Director Lori Wallach released the following statement.
“The Biden administration’s vision for this process is refreshing and hopeful. For an APEP to deliver gains for the millions of citizens of American nations suffering from past corporate-rigged trade agreements, talks must fix parts of existing pacts that cause ongoing harm, create new enforceable rules to raise wages and working conditions in the hemisphere and unite us in combatting the climate crisis. Plus, negotiators must evade Big Tech’s efforts to impose new constraints on countries’ powers to protect our privacy, counter monopoly abuses and instead rebalance “digital trade” rules to ensure people throughout the Americans benefit from digital technologies.
The need for a new U.S. trade policy that delivers broader benefits is clear and the challenge will be in achieving terms that deliver on that mission while all of Trade Team Status quo – job-offshoring manufacturing interests, Big Tech monopolists, Wall Street and Big Oil – try to maintain all of the special privileges and powers they jammed into the old agreements between these countries and get some new boondoggles locked in, like for Big Tech on “digital trade.”
All of the countries now engaged but for Barbados, Ecuador and Uruguay already have U.S. Free Trade Agreements (FTA) premised on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) model. The NAFTA and its FTA clones caused considerable damage to people and the environment in all of the involved countries. NAFTA was replaced by the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) in 2020. The USMCA added stronger labor standards and facility-specific Rapid Response Mechanism enforcement, eliminated the damaging Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) regime for the United States and Canada and greatly scaled back ISDS for U.S.-Mexico’s relations, and rebalanced medicine patents and other monopoly protections in favor of consumer access to medicines. USMCA passed with overwhelming House and Senate bipartisan supermajorities. A successful APEP must build on the labor, medicines access and environment improvements, including elimination of ISDS, that were achieved with the USMCA by ensuring these reforms are incorporated in the legacy U.S. trade agreements with APEP partners while building further on these gains and fixing the USMCA rules on “digital trade” that Big Tech interests inserted to derail government oversight.”