Just before the end of 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives introduced and passed USMCA, also known as NAFTA 2.0.
The original NAFTA was a major factor in the massive loss of family farms over the last three decades – helping increase the profits of large agribusinesses at the expense of family farmers and consumers in all three countries. NAFTA promoted significant corporate concentration, including the loss of 250,000 U.S. family farms.
The new agreement doesn’t address the fundamental problems with the original NAFTA for our agricultural and food systems. It continues to promote the interests of multinational companies rather than family farmers. And it does so at the expense of the citizens of all the countries: The USMCA/NAFTA 2.0 would direct regulators in each country to choose options for food safety, environmental, and other standards that distort trade the least, rather than what best protects public health or the environment.
USMCA doesn’t provide one of the few improvements that the Administration originally promised in the renegotiations: restoring mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) for beef and pork. COOL was the law in the U.S. until Mexico and Canada challenged it in the World Trade Organization. It should have been straightforward to demand that Canada and Mexico respect U.S. residents’ right to know where their meat comes from – but the White House backed down when Big Agribusiness opposed it during the NAFTA renegotiation.
The USMCA passed the House with a very strong vote, but some legislators in both parties have raised objections. Combined with potential delays due to the impeachment proceedings, there may still be a chance to stop it in the Senate.
Call both of your U.S. Senators and urge them to vote NO on the USMCA/NAFTA 2.0.
You can look up who your Senators’ contact information by calling the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121 or going to www.senate.gov.
The USMCA shares fundamental problems with NAFTA and many other so-called “free trade agreements” – they are about far more than just tariffs. These agreements place the interests of international trade above each country’s interests in setting the standards that their citizens want to see.
After the original NAFTA was put into place, the three countries established working groups to “harmonize” any conflicting regulations (pesticide and labeling regulations, for example). This places international interests above the concerns of the individual countries, as expressed by their elected officials.
NAFTA 2.0 expands on this type of international regulatory cooperation with a new chapter titled “Good Regulatory Practices.” It requires regulators to submit new and existing rules so that they may be reviewed by stakeholders from all three countries. That might sound like a good thing, but as the non-profit Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) explains, these negotiations most often occur behind closed doors, with few if any “stakeholders” coming from outside the industry being regulated.
“As a result, there is strong pressure to harmonize standards down to the lowest common denominator, resulting in a standard that becomes a regulatory ceiling” that prevents countries from changing regulations in response to new information, emerging technologies, or changed conditions.
“This could short-circuit the usual regulatory process and leave the public and environment unprotected, for example, from increased exposure to toxins, manipulated genes in food and the environment, or corporate control of data,” says the IATP report.
If approved, these new provisions would undoubtedly be extended to future negotiations with the EU, Japan, and the UK. Taken together, these new rules create barriers to basic protections for farmers and workers, the land, our water and our health.
This post from the National Family Farm Coalition (of which FARFA is a member group) has a good discussion on USMCA: https://nffc.net/sustainable-food-and-agriculture-organizations-urge-congress-to-reject-usmca/