MINNEAPOLIS—The original North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has been devastating for family farmers in the United States, Canada and Mexico. It has promoted global agribusiness interests at the cost of family farmers and contributed to the economic and social erosion of rural communities. Rather than answer the demands of family farm groups across North America to replace NAFTA with an entirely new agreement that promotes fair and sustainable food systems, Friday’s signing of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) is a missed opportunity. Among those neglected demands:
- Restore local and national sovereignty over farm and food policy
Under the New NAFTA, countries will relinquish their rights to use safeguards that shelter key markets from price or supply volatility, putting Mexico’s ambitious plan to restore food self-sufficiency at risk. Canada’s successful dairy supply management program will be weakened by opening domestic markets to imports. U.S. civil society demands to restore Country of Origin Labeling for meat were ignored.
- Stop corporate giveaways in trade agreements
While the New NAFTA does positively restrict the controversial Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism between the U.S. and Mexico, and eventually eliminate it for cases between the U.S. and Canada, it provides a new avenue for corporate interference: Provisions on regulations empower corporations to delay and challenge new and existing rules that are designed to protect public health and the environment. It also requires Mexico to sign and implement a treaty on plant varieties that limits farmers’ ability to both save and share seeds.
- Ensure economic viability and resilience in rural communities
Farmers across North America are trapped in a vicious cycle of low prices, overproduction and corporate concentration in agriculture. The New NAFTA fails to provide any new solutions to prevent the dumping of goods across borders at below the cost of production.
Family farm organizations from the United States and Canada are continuing to demand a new agreement between the North American nations that respects the concerns of farmers, workers and the environment.
Karen Hansen-Kuhn, Director of Trade and Global Governance, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
“This New NAFTA is a huge missed opportunity. Family farm groups in all three countries insisted on new rules to rebuild rural economies and food systems. Instead, we have a deal that locks in many of the old rules that have driven farmers out of agriculture for more than two decades. But it’s not over yet. Signing this New NAFTA is just one more step in a bad process. Legislatures in all three countries should insist that negotiators go back to the drawing board or reject this new NAFTA all together.”
Cam Goff, First Vice President (Policy), National Farmers Union Canada
“Since 1969, supply management has awarded Canadian dairy and poultry farmers a fair return for producing sufficient quality and quantity without overproduction. The New NAFTA attacks this system, while around the world, including in the USA, dairy farmers look to Canada’s system as a way out of desperation caused by overproduction, low prices and excessive debt. The new deal also attacks Canada’s quality control system for grain exports and seed, giving multinational corporations undue influence and promoting a high-volume, low-price export strategy. The New NAFTA helps corporations and hurts farmers within Canada and internationally.”
Rick Arnold, Chair of the Trade Group, Northumberland Chapter of the Council of Canadians
“What Canada is proposing to sign on to November 30 is a trade deal that could decimate key sectors of Canada’s farm community, ignore gender or indigenous concerns, and contain no mention of climate change, the Paris Agreement, or global warming. It should not be signed, and the Parliament should reject it.”
Jim Goodman, President, National Family Farm Coalition
“This latest version of NAFTA, like previous trade deals, not only allows, but protects, the threats that corporate power poses to governments and people. The New NAFTA will ensure corporations profit regardless of the cost to farmers, farm workers, labor, women, minorities and the indigenous of all three nations. It undermines Canada’s production management policies and seed access in Mexico while promoting low farm prices in the United States. Public health and safety, the viability of rural communities and environmental protection will be nothing more than afterthoughts under the New NAFTA.”