Green leaflet 1: NAFTA problems
The Greens/Green Party USA
NAFTA: Bad for Mexico; Bad for Canada; Bad for the US
During the past few decades, many states have passed laws to protect themselves from the ever-increasing poisons. Transnational corporations feel restricted. They want unlimited expansion. Largely due to corporate pressure, the Presidents of the US, Canada and Mexico signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) on September 6, 1992. NAFTA would reduce many tarriffs. It would also lead people throughout the continent to compete with each other to accept low wages and poisonous environments. NAFTA would set up panels which could overturn local and national laws. The Democratic and Republican Parties are caving in to transnational corporations. The Greens/Green Party USA warns that our health, our jobs and our democratic right to govern ourselves are in peril.
NAFTA would increase harmful chemicals in food. NAFTA uses standards from Codex Alimentarius, which is a Rome-based UN group heavily influenced by multinational chemical and agribusiness interests. Codex allows high residues of pesticides such as DDT, alar, aldrin, and dieldrin — all banned or severely restricted in the US — on fruits, vegetables, grains and other food products. Laws restricting the importation of food contaminated with these poisons could be challenged as "Illegal Trade Barriers."
NAFTA would destroy US and Canadian jobs by making it easier for corporations to relocate to Mexico. It would lock Mexico into having some of the worst working conditions in the world. The existing maquiladora industry provides a preview of life under NAFTA. Maquiladoras are foreign-owned manufacturing plants, mostly in northern Mexico. Their effect on health is appalling. Workers are exposed to incredible levels of toxics such as xylene, which has been linked to anencephaly, an absence of parts of the brain in new-borns.
NAFTA would undermine wages and workplace safety. Employers could threaten relocation to force workers to accept wage cuts and more dangerous working conditions.
NAFTA would destroy farms in the US, Canada and Mexico. Agribusiness would use lower prices from their international holdings to undersell family farms. NAFTA would help force between 800,000 and 3 million Mexican families off of the communal ejido system of farm land.
NAFTA would make it easier for corporations to contaminate and poison communities throughout North America. Corporations would use relocation as a threat to force local governments to be lax on the enforcement of pollution laws.
NAFTA does not allow toxics to be banned based on "zero risk." It only allows limitations based on "risk assessment." This means that if scientists are not sure whether a chemical is poisonous or not, governments are not free to ban it. Instead, they must determine which level of death is cost effective and make restrictions on this determination.
NAFTA is a blueprint for increased dependence on fossil fuels. Fossile fuels are the greatest contributors to air pollution and acid rain. US oil companies want to take over Mexico's petroleum reserves, which are second only to those of the Middle East. NAFTA will accelerate global warming through increased petroleum use.
NAFTA threatens national, state and local laws on hazardous waste, auto emissions, endangered species and food labelling. These could all be considered "trade barriers" and eliminated by challenges from corporations. For example, Canada has sued the US to permit the importation of asbestos. Nations would not be allowed to use trade sanctions to enforce international environmental, health, human rights, or labor rights laws. Bans on imports produced with child labor or prison labor could be challenged. Laws protecting endangered species, such as ivory and whale product bans, could be declared illegal trade barriers. In August, 1991, an international trade panel ruled that provisions of the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, which bans importation of dolphin-deadly tuna, are illegal trade barriers and must be eliminated.
NAFTA dispute resolution panels will be able to overrule laws passed by democratic processes. Five person panels of trade bureaucrats will meet in strict secrecy. Though empowered to declare laws "illegal trade barriers," they will not be required to hear expert scientific and environmental witnesses. A corporation may challenge a law if it thinks the law caused it economic loss, even if the law did not violate a NAFTA provision. A member county can bring cases against measures that do not violate NAFTA rules, but that cause it to miss an economic opportunity it "could reasonably have expected to accrue to it."
NAFTA was negotiated in secret without public participation. Large corporations had special access to negotiators. Citizens who would be affected as consumer, workers and parents were not permitted any influence and were not even allowed to know what was being negotiated until it was over.
for more information: Don Fitz, 314-727-8554
for a copy of the special issue of Synthesis/Regeneration (discussion bulletin of the Greens/Green Party USA) on NAFTA (number 6, due in March) send $3 to:
Synthesis/Regeneration, c/o WD Press,
P.O. Box 24115
St. Louis, Mo. 63130