The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) came into effect on January 1, 1994. The agreement between Canada, the United States and Mexico aimed to increase economic activity and integration amongst the three countries. The Trump administration recently triggered the renegotiation of NAFTA, which is set to begin in August 2017. Find a timeline of the renegotiations here.
What’s the Deal with NAFTA?
Since 1994, NAFTA has increased trade across borders and contributed to economic integration between Canada, the United States and Mexico. The efforts to lower trade barriers, however, have contributed to many negative impacts on people, democracy and the environment across the continent. Some of these impacts include:
- A rise in corporate profits and, in turn, economic inequality
- Stagnant (or falling) wages and rising unemployment across the continent
- The expansion of investor rights — specifically, investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) allows foreign investors to challenge government regulations for alleged discrimination or loss of profits. This has enabled investors to challenge (and oftentimes overturn) public interest regulations that they deem unfavourable.
- Little to no contribution to improving working conditions, labour rights and standard of living — provisions in the NAFTA labour side agreement are non-binding
- Environmental degradation — provisions in the environmental side agreement are non-binding. This is worsened by the fact that ISDS threatens governments’ ability to develop and enforce environmental regulations.
- Deterioration of agricultural systems and farmer livelihoods in all three countries
- Regulatory cooperation efforts have contributed to a lowering of standards (e.g. public health and consumer protection)
For a more detailed analysis of NAFTA’s impact to date, see this TJN brief.
Trade Justice Network Actions
In May 2017, the Trade Justice Network (TJN) participated in the tri-national meeting of civil society organizations from Canada, the U.S. and Mexico to discuss the NAFTA renegotiations, which took place in Mexico City. Find a recap of the events here.
The TJN is a member of the Canada/Quebec working group on NAFTA that emerged from the tri-national meetings. The group aims to raise awareness about the implications of NAFTA, pressure the Canadian government to ensure that the negotiation process is transparent, democratic and participatory, and coordinate actions to call for a fairer North American trade relationship that benefits all people.
The TJN has submitted a written brief to the Canadian government consultations on NAFTA. The submission outlines our concerns with NAFTA, as well as an alternative model for trade and economic integration in North America.
What Can You Do?
Submit your views on NAFTA and its renegotiation to the Canadian government by July 18, 2017. You can find more information on the Canadian consultations here.