With the selection of economist-activist, Pat Choate by Ross Perot as his vice-presidential running mate, the issues of the controversial NAFTA and GATT trade agreements may be receiving greater visibility in this fall’s Presidential campaigns. The two major party candidates — Clinton and Dole — supported these autocratic systems of international governance over our democratic processes and, not surprisingly, are ignoring this subject around the country.
If Clinton and Dole put NAFTA and GATT into play during their campaigns, they would have to answer to some pretty deplorable facts about how these corporate-inspired agreements with other nations have harmed the U.S. economy, the U.S. taxpayer and our democracy.
First, take NAFTA and its supporters’ bold promises of job creation. Before NAFTA the U.S. had a $3 billion trade surplus with Mexico. In the first 30 months of NAFTA the U.S. suffered a $23.3 billion Mexican trade deficit. Using the formula by NAFTA proponents that one billion dollars of net exports equals 20,000 new U.S. jobs, the net deficit with Mexico and Canada equals the loss of nearly one million jobs.
Instead of opening plants in the U.S., foreign companies are opening them in Mexico as a staging ground for entry to the U.S. market.
The Mexican people have suffered as well. The rampant speculation in Mexican bonds under NAFTA, worsened by a corrupt regime of dictators and oligarchs, led to the collapse of the Peso, huge inflation and unemployment and the U.S. bailout of the Mexican government and its billionaires on the backs of American taxpayers.
NAFTA came with other promises — a development bank which has not made any loans yet, stepped up enforcement along the Mexican-U.S. border which is a worsening nightmare of smuggling, corruption, truck congestion, pollution and infectious diseases, and harmonization of the two nation’s truck weight and other standards which bode ill for travelers’ safety on U.S. highways.
GATT, with over 120 signatory countries, is the 800 pound gorilla. Subordinating our health, safety and workplace standards to the imperatives of foreign commerce, GATT resolves disputes between nations before A secretive tribunal of the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland from which there is no independent appeal.
Thus, should Germany, Brazil or India believe our humane laws are “non-tariff trade barriers” to their products, they can take, for example, our stronger motor vehicle or food safety standards to Geneva. If they win, the U.S. must either repeal our safeguards or pay perpetual economic fines to the winning country. Since GATT starts out with a bias against nations with higher environmental and safety standards, the U.S. is likely to lose.
We have already lost twice — once to Venezuela that wanted to end a reformulated gasoline rule by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Mexico that was opposed to our mammal protection law that saved Dolphins from mass slaughter in the tuna drift-nets. So, the strongest nation ‘on earth is changing the pollution-reducing rule and proposing in Congress to amend the dolphin-protection law in order to obey three trade judges running a secret kangaroo court in Geneva.
The chilling effect of GATT — which has the status of federal law — will prove to be its most destructive impact. Local, state and national legislative proposals to protect jobs, advance the safety of marketplace products and reduce environmental toxics will be accused of being Gatt-illegal either by the State Department or foreign government lobbyists.
This month, for example, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) will introduce legislation to prohibit imports of products made by brutalized child labor abroad. Child labor in dudgeon-like factories is a booming exploitation of 8, 9, 10 and 11 year olds. Millions of these children, in near-servitude, weave carpets and make other products exported by India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, China and other nations.
If this bill passes, it will most certainly be held GATT-illegal, because restrictions on imports based on “process standards” or how something is produced is, with the exception of prison-labor, illegal. Imagine, the U.S. has bound itself by an agreement that keeps our country from discouraging child labor overseas and protecting jobs here. (Child Labor in the U.S. has been illegal for many decades).
GATT keeps the U.S. from being first in what counts. Under this new GATT, the U.S. could not have required air bags or other frontline life-saving engineering. Downward harmonization of standards with other nations would have blocked this progress, as it is starting to do now.
Seems that Presidential campaigns should answer up to the American people about what the White House and Congress did in 1993 and 1994.