September 2, 2017 - No. 26

For Your Information

NAFTA Renegotiations

Where Matters Stand
U.S. Push to Extend and Expand Fortress North America
- Enver Villamizar -
Canada's Position
What's at Stake for Food, Farmers and the Land?
- Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy -

For Your Information -- NAFTA Renegotiations

Where Matters Stand

The first round of negotiations over the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) began August 16-20 in Washington, DC. Negotiators will reconvene in Mexico for a second round of talks September 1-5. This will be followed by talks in Ottawa starting September 24. Thus far the schedule includes seven rounds of talks by the end of 2017 and reports indicate that there is a push to have them completed by July 2018 when the election for President of Mexico begins.

The first round consisted of five full days of meetings by a team of subject-matter experts covering more than two dozen different negotiation topics. The Council of Canadians provides the following summary of major developments in the first round based on news reports:

1. Auto

"On auto parts, the U.S. surprised its allies on Day 1 by hinting it might favour a Made In America-style content quota. The statement on that from U.S. trade czar Robert Lighthizer was vague and, according to sources, was not followed up by any specific numbers being tabled by the U.S. side in the initial round. However, the idea was swiftly opposed by Canada, Mexico and the auto industry."

2. Pharmaceuticals

"On pharmaceuticals, the U.S. has also proposed a 12-year patent-style protection for cutting-edge biologics medicines, sources say. This is significantly higher than the protections in Canada and Mexico, would drive up prices, and could be an irritant if the U.S. sticks to it."

3. Labour

"A report in Inside U.S. Trade said Canada has also presented demands on labour rights that would force the U.S. to sign all the International Labour Organization conventions. That's generally been a non-starter for the U.S."

4. Climate change

"A Canadian government official speaking on background told the Star ... that the U.S. and Canada are at loggerheads over the inclusion of climate change measures in a new NAFTA agreement, which is a stated priority of the Liberal government. The official added, however, that the Americans haven't said anything to indicate the disagreement is irreconcilable at this point."

5. Procurement, Chapter 19 

"Other areas of divergence include an American push to create Buy American rules for government contracts in the U.S., while opening up these bids to U.S. companies in Canada and Mexico, and remove the state-to-state dispute resolution mechanism, which Canada strongly favours, from the agreement. "

A trilateral statement issued following round one states: "The scope and volume of proposals during the first round of the negotiation reflects a commitment from all three countries to an ambitious outcome and reaffirms the importance of updating the rules governing the world's largest free trade area."

It hides the undemocratic and illegitimate nature of the negotiations over the fate of the peoples of all three countries: "In addition to the negotiations, officials from all three countries continued to engage a wide range of stakeholders, including representatives of the private sector; industry associations; civil society, including labor groups; legislative representatives; and state/provincial officials."

The three countries signed an agreement at the level of the executives to keep confidential the proposals of other countries. Governments can "share" info they receive from other negotiating parties with their own government bodies (cabinet) and those they are consulting but not ouside of that.

Following the meetings, U.S. President Donald Trump issued warnings publicly that there would likely be no agreement on re-negotiation and termination was a likely outcome. This has been widely used to re-enforce the notion that Canada should push to ensure a deal is done, or prepare for a possible exit from NAFTA.

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U.S. Push to Extend and Expand
Fortress North America

On July 17, leading up to the first round of renegotiations, the office of the U.S. Trade Representative,  an executive office of the U.S. President, issued a summary of the U.S. Executive's objectives. In the introduction to its summary it states:

"The new NAFTA must continue to break down barriers to American exports. This includes the elimination of unfair subsidies, market-distorting practices by state owned enterprises, and burdensome restrictions of intellectual property. The new NAFTA will be modernized to reflect 21st century standards and will reflect a fairer deal, addressing America's persistent trade imbalances in North America. It will ensure that the United States obtains more open, equitable, secure, and reciprocal market access, and that our trade agreement with our two largest export markets is effectively implemented and enforced."

In this way it gives the impression the issue is about expanding the access of U.S. monopolies to the markets of NAFTA partners as well as providing "fairness" in the form of preventing other NAFTA countries from "restricting" U.S. national interests. However, one of the main features of the priorities is in fact to demand that the Canadian and Mexican governments submit much more completely to U.S. jurisdiction and authority overall on all matters, while at the same time strengthening the U.S. government's exemption from various provisions claiming national security. In order to understand the actual scope of these renegotiations of NAFTA, it is necessary to remember that the main agenda of the North American Free Trade Agreement between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico -- in force since January 1, 1994 -- is the integration of trade, energy, transportation and security corridors under the command and control of U.S. imperialism and the U.S. military’s Northern Command.[1]

One of the ways the U.S. seeks to extend its authority by imposing private interests in its service over national political bodies is by demanding what is called "transparency" in decision-making in Canada and Mexico over the making of laws and regulations on any and all matters coming under the NAFTA agreement, which are essentially all aspects of life of the three countries. By transparency is meant ensuring that national and sub-national political bodies in Canada and Mexico must provide the monopolies a direct say in decision-making. This includes alerting the monopolies to any laws or regulations that may affect their private interests and limit their ability to maximize their profits. In addition, any changes in laws or regulations are to be made consistent with those in the U.S., or to be crafted jointly with the monopolies in their interests and then to be made the "North American standard," policed and enforced by supranational bodies.

Under the broad heading of "Transparency," the objectives state that the U.S. intends to: "Commit each Party to provide levels of transparency, participation, and accountability in the development of regulations and other government decisions that are comparable to those under U.S. law with respect to federal statutes and regulations." In particular, the U.S. seeks commitments by each Party:

- to promptly publish laws, regulations, administrative rulings of general application, and other procedures that affect trade and investment;

- to provide adequate opportunities for stakeholder comment on measures before they are adopted and finalized; and

- to provide a sufficient period of time between final publication of measures and their entry into force.

Under objectives for rules covering investment, the objectives state:

"Secure for U.S. investors in the NAFTA countries important rights consistent with U.S. legal principles and practice, while ensuring that NAFTA country investors in the United States are not accorded greater substantive rights than domestic investors."

The demand for submission to this definition of transparency, as well as demands for "regulatory cooperation" to bring everything to U.S. levels appear throughout the various areas where the U.S. is seeking benefits for what it defines as its national interest.

In addition, there are demands to limit the ability of the national governments of Canada and Mexico to have any control over anything which the U.S. may want to control itself. For example, in the banking and financial services sector the U.S. is demanding that companies not be required to establish "local" computing facilities in Canada or Mexico.

The objectives seek to: "Ensure that the NAFTA countries refrain from imposing measures in the financial services sector that restrict cross-border data flows or that require the use or installation of local computing facilities."

Further on it adds: "Establish rules to ensure that NAFTA countries do not impose measures that restrict cross-border data flows and do not require the use or installation of local computing facilities."

An aspect of this objective means that the U.S. does not want any restrictions on its control over data on Canadians and Mexicans. It does not want any privacy, taxation or other laws of Mexico and Canada blocking U.S. control of the data, in addition to eliminating the added costs of having such facilities in each country.

The Objectives also include a section which demands that governments adopt new measures to criminalize "government corruption" -- left undefined in the Objectives. A section entitled "Anti-corruption" seeks to: "Secure provisions committing each Party to criminalize government corruption, to take steps to discourage corruption, and to provide adequate penalties and enforcement tools in the event of prosecution of persons suspected of engaging in corrupt activities."

What is defined as corruption by the U.S. imperialists is very different to how the working class and people define corruption. For example, the theft of workers' pensions through the use of insolvency courts and fraudulent restructuring procedures -- a form of legalized theft -- is corruption of the first order but considered totally legitimate by the forces that have usurped power in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

The U.S. demand to have the labour and environment provisions -- currently outside of the formal NAFTA agreement -- is not only a farce but plays the role of diversion. The U.S. position is that "recognized core labor standards as recognized in the ILO Declaration" be included in the "core of the agreement." This includes:

"Freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining;

"Elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labor;

"Effective abolition of child labor and a prohibition on the worst forms of child labor; and

"Elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation."

The U.S. position includes demands that NAFTA countries "do not waive or derogate" from their labour laws implementing "internationally recognized core labor standards," in a manner affecting trade or investment between the parties.

They also seek to "[e]nsure that these labor obligations are subject to the same dispute settlement mechanism that applies to other enforceable obligations of the Agreement."

In terms of the environment, the U.S. has similar language seeking to "Establish rules that will ensure that NAFTA countries do not fail to effectively enforce their environment laws through a sustained or recurring course of action or inaction, in a manner affecting trade or investment between the parties."

In other words, first make sure that all laws accord with the U.S. national interest and then make sure they are enforced. No laws should affect U.S. trade or investment, all subject to what is called the formal dispute resolution measures.

Canada has the same demands to have "labour and the environment" included in the core agreement. It is not just "a show," but a means to use the laws and regulations to further the integration into one Fortress North America.


1. Export data record the extent to which Canada and Mexico are integrated with U.S. imperialism within Fortress North America under the control of the dominant oligopolies. According to data released by TD Securities and Bloomberg, Mexican 2015 exports to the U.S. are equal in value to 27 per cent of Mexico's total value of production calculated as Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Canada's value of exports to the U.S. as a percentage of GDP is not much less, at 22 per cent. Exports to the U.S. as a percentage of total exports are 81 per cent for Mexico and 77 per cent for Canada. Total exports as a percentage of the country's GDP equal 33 per cent for Mexico and 26 per cent for Canada.

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Canada's Position

Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland has been given responsibility for U.S. Trade and is thus overseeing the NAFTA renegotiations. Freeland in her remarks about NAFTA is desperate that Canadians not discuss the actual situation of the Canadian economy and its reality, trying to herd them instead into discussing how to "improve" NAFTA. She claims essentially that Canadians all support NAFTA and cites as proof the make-up of an advisory committee she established made up of representatives of the monopolies, the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) and First Nations. This is supposed to provide evidence of Canadian consensus.[1]

In a speech on August 14 at the University of Ottawa Freeland stated: "It wasn't obvious to anyone back in 1987, when the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement was first reached, that this was a good idea.

"The Liberal party of that era, then in opposition, was against it. My own beloved mother, who ran for the NDP in Edmonton-Strathcona in 1988, was against it. Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, to give credit where due, staked his prime-ministership on getting free trade passed. And he was right.

"Two decades on, in our country, that debate is settled because the results are plain. The North American Free Trade area is now the biggest economic zone in the world. Canada, the U.S. and Mexico together account for a quarter of the world's GDP, with seven percent of its population. Since 1994, trade among the NAFTA partners has roughly tripled, making this a $19 trillion dollar regional market, with 470 million consumers. Canada's economy is 2.5 per cent larger every year than it otherwise would be, thanks to NAFTA. (It is as if Canada has been receiving a $20 billion cheque each year since NAFTA was ratified.)"

Freeland's claim of the annual $20 billion cheque, begs the question of where that $20 billion goes! She should also say that under Chretien billions were removed from the public purse by cutting the Canada Health and Social Transfer to the provinces. Under the IMF restructuring program these funds were handed over to the banks. Where did those funds go?

Freeland refuses to address the destruction of Canada's manufacturing base since neo-liberal free trade was enacted. Instead she cites two examples of Canadian monopolies that have "gone global" and an American company that has entered Canada. Her examples serve to divert from the reality. The claim that because some particular monopolies employ Canadians, this equates to NAFTA being a success is infantile to say the least.

Freeland gushed in her August 14 speech of the wonders of today’s monopolies and their power of control and freedom to operate without restrictions across borders. Civil society at one time considered such unbridled private power of the rich over sovereign countries and their economies as illegal trusts with too much social wealth and power concentrated in the hands of a few.

Freeland says, "Consider a leading Ontario company like Magna, as the PM noted in a speech last month to U.S. governors, which employs 62,000 Americans, 22,000 Mexicans, and 20,000 Canadians, building auto parts and components that rely on supply chains that crisscross the borders.

"Or, consider Alberta-based Precision Drilling, among the foremost providers of oil drilling services in the world, with a thriving business across Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. It started with three rigs in 1984. It now has more than 240 worldwide, with 9,000 employees across North America. For them, a thin border for trade matters a lot.

"Consider an American company like Pratt & Whitney, a global leader in making aircraft engines. It's headquartered in Connecticut but has thousands of employees in Canada, through its Canadian subsidiary. Just like Magna, Pratt & Whitney's success is built on cross-border supply chains. For an engine part, there is no border....

"My point is that NAFTA has been an extraordinary success story. And, Canadians today largely agree with me in that assessment. A Pew Research poll in May found that 74 per cent of those surveyed think NAFTA has been good for Canada...

"This is a remarkable consensus. It extends across the political spectrum. It is reflected in the high caliber of the people who recently joined our NAFTA Council, people such as Rona Ambrose, Brian Topp and James Moore. These people set partisan politics aside to work to pursue the national interest.

"As of today, the government had sought and received more than 21,000 submissions of Canadians' views and concerns about NAFTA. That includes contributions from 16 academics and think tanks, 158 associations, and 55 businesses and corporations.

"Preparing for these negotiations has already united us as a country. I have been astounded and moved by the extremely high level of support and collaboration I and my team have received from business, from labour, from civil society, from every level of government, and, from opposition politicians. Time and again people have told me how proud they are to be Canadian, and how committed they are to doing everything they can to help. Our top-notch bi-partisan NAFTA Council is evidence of this."

Fraudulent Consultations

In line with the government's attempts to create the appearance that there is no opposition to NAFTA with claims of a fake consensus, the government held an online consultation, that began March 14 and closed July 28. Like other government consultations, this one was aimed at imposing a pre-determined outcome. The questionnaire started from the standpoint that NAFTA has been a benefit to Canada and the issue is how to strengthen it.

The questions posed in the consultation were:

- In your view, what should be a priority for the Government of Canada in the renegotiation of NAFTA (e.g. trade areas, practices, issues)?

- Are there elements of NAFTA that are working well and should be preserved or improved upon?

- Are you aware of any trade practices, laws or regulations in the United States, and/or in Mexico, that undermine or could undermine meaningful market access for Canadian goods and services?

- Are there any new issues that you believe should be incorporated into NAFTA, or are there issues that you believe should be expanded upon to reflect advancements since NAFTA was originally negotiated?

NAFTA Advisory Council

While the government "consultation" with Canadians is trivial and non-serious, sources informed the Workers' Centre that members of the government's "advisory council" had to sign a confidentiality agreement that they would keep everything secret. The un-elected council is made up of representatives of the Canadian ruling elite and Canadians who are directly entrenched in the United States of the North American Monopolies. (See members below)

The terms of reference for members are: "provide your unfiltered opinion to the Minister of Foreign Affairs for her consideration in advance of and during the course of negotiations with NAFTA partners Mexico and the United States, based on your expertise and experience. This feedback, which may from time-to-time be provided directly to the Minister as well as during meetings and conference calls with the other participants, will ensure that the Minister and Canada's negotiating team are able to avail themselves of a broad range of perspectives from across Canada."

Canada's Priorities

The following are the main government priorities Freeland outlined in her August 14 speech. These priorities essentially demand that all power be placed in the hands of the dominant companies in each sector in North America and their representatives in the state institutions. According to Freeland, the oligarchs and their political representatives must have absolute power over the economies of the three countries and the right to decide and dictate what the actual producers, the working class, need and think and what workers’ rights may or may not be.
To be progressive for Freeland means to block the working class from resolving its contradiction with the owners of social wealth and thus deprive the oligarchs of the power to deprive the working class of its right to its own nation-building project. A working class nation-building project would vest sovereignty in the people and unleash the full potential of the modern productive forces to guarantee the well-being of all without crises and war, and contribute globally in preparing social conditions to eliminate class privilege and class society for all humanity.
1) Modernize NAFTA. Freeland writes: "The global, North American, and Canadian economies have been transformed in that time by the technology revolution. NAFTA needs to address this, in a way that ensures we continue to have a vibrant and internationally competitive technology sector and that all sectors of our economy can reap the full benefits of the digital revolution."

2) NAFTA should be made more "progressive." This is to be done by: "bringing strong labour safeguards into the core of the agreement; second by integrating enhanced environmental provisions [...] adding a new chapter on gender rights, [...] adding an Indigenous chapter; and [...]reforming the Investor-State Dispute Settlement process, "to ensure that governments have an unassailable right to regulate in the public interest." Concerning labour provisions Freeland adds: "Canadians broadly support free trade. But their enthusiasm wavers when trade agreements put our workers at an unfair disadvantage because of the high standards that we rightly demand. Instead, we must pursue progressive trade agreements that are win-win, helping workers both at home and abroad to enjoy higher wages and better conditions."

3) "cutting red tape and harmonizing regulations. We share this US administration's desire to liberate our companies from needless bureaucracy, and this negotiation is a welcome chance to act on that goal."

4) "a freer market for government procurement [...] Local-content provisions for major government contracts are political junk-food, superficially appetizing, but unhealthy in the long run. Procurement liberalization can go hand-in-hand with further regulatory harmonization."

5) make the movement of professionals easier. NAFTA's Chapter 16, which addresses temporary entry for businesspeople, should be reviewed and expanded to reflect the needs of our businesses.

6) uphold and preserve the elements in NAFTA that Canadians deem key to our national interest -- including a process to ensure anti-dumping and countervailing duties are only applied fairly when truly warranted; the exception in the agreement to preserve Canadian culture; and Canada's system of supply management."

"One reason that these progressive elements, particularly on the environment and labour, are so important is that they are how we guarantee that the modernized NAFTA will not only be an exemplary free trade deal, it will also be a fair trade deal."


1. Members of the non-elected Advisory Council on NAFTA are:

William Downe -- CEO of BMO Financial Group. He is a member of the Economic Club of Chicago and Past President of the U.S. Federal Reserve Board's Federal Advisory Council made up of representatives of the U.S. banking industry to advise the Reserve Board.

Linda Hasenfratz -- CEO of the global automotive firm Linamar Corp based in Guelph, Ontario and Co-Chair of Council of Women Entrepreneurs established by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. president Donald Trump.

Annette Verschuren -- Former President of The Home Depot Canada and The Home Depot Asia. Reportedly overseeing the aggressive entry into Canada of the U.S. monopoly, growing the company's Canadian operations from 19 to 179 stores between 1996 and 2011. (This was also the period when Home Depot entrenched itself and substantially took over the Canadian market from Canadian-based Rona.) She also led The Home Depot's entry into China. Ms. Verschuren is currently chair and CEO of NRStor Inc., an "energy storage development company."

Phyllis Yaffe -- Chair of Cineplex Entertainment and CEO of Alliance Atlantis. Currently serving as Canada's consul general in New York City.

Sophie Brochu -- President and CEO of Quebec's Gaz Metro for the past decade. Gaz Metro, with more than $7 billion in assets, is the largest natural gas distribution company in Quebec, involved in the distribution of natural gas in Quebec and Vermont. In Vermont it has more than 310,000 customers through its subsidiaries Green Mountain Power and Vermont Gas Systems.

Rana Sarkar -- Appointed Canada's consul general in San Francisco. Formerly, director for high growth markets at KPMG Canada, president and CEO of the Canada-India Business Council, and Co-chairman of the advisory board and a senior fellow at the University of Toronto's Munk School of Global Affairs. Unsuccessful candidate for the Liberal Party in the riding of Scarborough--Rouge River.

Rona Ambrose -- Former Harper government Minister and interim leader of the Conservative Party following the resignation of Stephen Harper.

James Moore -- Former Harper Conservative Cabinet Minister from BC. Former Minister of Industry, currently a "senior business adviser" at law firm Dentons and adviser at the global firm Edelman.

Marc-André Blanchard -- Former chair and CEO of McCarthy Tétrault law firm and Canada's ambassador and permanent representative to the United Nations.

Perry Bellegarde -- National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations since 2014.

Hassan Yussuff -- President of the Canadian Labour Congress.

Brian Topp -- Former candidate for leader of the NDP. Served as chief of staff to Roy Romanow in the Saskatchewan provincial government and most recently as chief of staff to the Premier of Alberta Rachel Notely. Former Director of Information Services at the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA) and the Executive Director and CEO of ACTRA Toronto.

Marcel Groleau -- President of the Union des producteurs agricoles in Quebec.

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What's at Stake for Food, Farmers and the Land?


The renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the U.S., Mexico and Canada begins on August 16, and there is much at stake for farmers and rural communities in all three countries. Despite promised gains for farmers, NAFTA's benefits over the last 23 years have gone primarily to multinational agribusiness firms. NAFTA is about much more than trade. It set rules on investment, farm exports, food safety, access to seeds, and markets. NAFTA, combined with the formation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the 1996 Farm Bill, led the charge to greater consolidation among agribusiness firms, the loss of many small and mid-sized farms and independent ranchers, the rapid growth of confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and further corporate control of animal production through often unfair, restrictive contracts with producers. The Trump administration's negotiating objectives reflect relatively small tweaks to NAFTA, while adopting deregulatory elements of the defeated Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Family farm groups have called for the existing NAFTA to be scrapped and propose a fundamentally new agreement with a goal of improving the lives of family farmers and rural communities in all three countries.

What Is NAFTA?

NAFTA was agreed to by the U.S., Mexico and Canada in 1992, ratified by the U.S. Congress in 1993, and became enforceable in 1994. The Agreement has 22 chapters, grouped into eight sections.[1] Those sections cover trade rules on a variety of goods, including textiles, agriculture and food safety, and energy; technical standards for traded goods; government procurement; protection for investors and trade in services; intellectual property; notification of new laws and how to handle trade disputes.

NAFTA was the first of its kind in several ways: the first trade agreement among countries at very different levels of economic development; the first to include controversial private arbitration panels that allow foreign corporations to sue governments to challenge actions that impede their potential future profits; and the first trade agreement to include side agreements on labor and environment. It was the template for the U.S.-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement, and the defeated Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), among others, as well as dozens of other agreements negotiated by Canada and Mexico. Each of the trade deals that followed included additional elements that strengthened corporations' ability to move production and investments in all participating countries.

What Promises Were Made to Farmers?

During the NAFTA debate in the early 1990s, U.S. farmers and ranchers were promised that they would export their way to prosperity but that didn't happen. A U.S. Department of Agriculture fact sheet at the time pledged that NAFTA would "boost incomes in Mexico and increase demand for a greater volume and variety of food and feed products" from U.S. farmers.[2] The USDA fact sheet vowed that U.S. farmers would gain from "higher agricultural export prices" among other benefits. An International Trade Commission analysis advising Congress in 1993 downplayed the impact NAFTA would have on agriculture, predicting only "a minimal effect on overall U.S. agricultural production and employment," aside from some increases in grain and meat exports, and a slight increase in fruit and vegetable imports.[3] The same ITC report predicted that U.S. Midwest soy and corn farmers would benefit from increased exports to Mexico.

The General Accounting Office (now Government Accountability Office) concluded that NAFTA would "reduce unauthorized Mexican migration to the United States in the long run..."[4] President Bill Clinton made a similar argument at the time stating: "By raising the incomes of Mexicans, which this (NAFTA) will do, they'll be able to buy more of our products and there will be much less pressure on them to come to this country in the form of illegal immigration."[5] Conservative think tanks like the Peterson Institute for International Economics joined in the NAFTA cheerleading through opinion pieces in the media that exclaimed "Everybody Wins," and predicted strong long-term growth in Mexico's per capita income with associated declines in immigration to the U.S.[6]

These false promises, supported by a compliant media, gave Congressional backers the fuel they needed to narrowly pass NAFTA in 1993. Whether economic gains for farmers or reduced migration from Mexico, NAFTA's promises of prosperity have proven to be empty ones.

What Parts of NAFTA Relate to Food and Agriculture?

Phasing out of tariffs

NAFTA's Chapter 3 on National Treatment and Market Access set a schedule to phase out tariffs on most agricultural goods traded among the three countries, finally coming into full force in 2008. Tariffs on some goods, such as imports of corn and soybeans to Mexico, were phased out over 15 years -- although Mexico accelerated that timetable under pressure from the U.S.[7] (Previously, Mexico had charged an average tariff of 11 percent on imports of agricultural goods.) U.S. agricultural tariffs were for the most part already low. Many Mexican farm goods entered the U.S. duty-free prior to NAFTA under the Generalized System of Preferences, which gives tariff preferences to developing countries. Tariffs on U.S.-Canada trade for most agricultural goods had already been eliminated under the U.S.-Canada Free Trade Agreement, which formally came into force in 1989.[8]

Some exceptions to the free flow of agricultural goods were established under NAFTA. Canada retained the right to maintain its dairy, poultry and egg supply management programs, which support fair prices for Canadian producers and consumers. These programs include some limits on imports and high tariffs for those products. NAFTA also includes a side agreement that expands the volume of Mexican sugar imports into the U.S., while still protecting the U.S. sugar program, which also functions essentially as a supply management program.

Food safety

The Agriculture and Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Chapter of NAFTA (Chapter 7) sets broad rules for domestic support, eliminates export subsidies, and establishes a mechanism to handle trade disputes. The second part of the chapter focuses on food safety rules, and ensuring that those rules will not act as a barrier to trade. Equivalency agreements between the three countries streamlined inspections of foods crossing borders, and put pressure on inspectors and food safety agencies to facilitate trade. NAFTA also established an ongoing food safety standards committee to settle disputes between the three countries.

Special rights for foreign corporations

NAFTA was the first free trade agreement to establish special legal rights for foreign corporations. NAFTA's Chapter 11 established the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), which grants foreign investors the right to sue local or national governments over measures that affect their real or potential profits on existing or planned investments.[9] This ground-breaking corporate privilege provision has been replicated in nearly every ensuing U.S. trade deal. There have been only a few agricultural ISDS disputes under NAFTA. Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland and Corn Products International have all successfully sued Mexico and won multimillion dollar settlements, for the country's tariffs on high fructose corn syrup.

Intellectual property

NAFTA's Chapter 17 was the first free trade chapter to include meaningful rules on intellectual property rights (IPR) for seeds and other biological resources. NAFTA built upon on-going international negotiations that ultimately created the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement in the WTO. The NAFTA IPR chapter references the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants 1978 (UPOV Convention 1978), and the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants 1991 (UPOV Convention 1991) -- which place restrictions on farmers' and researchers' rights to save and share seeds.[10] While all NAFTA parties were expected to either be part of these Conventions, or join the Conventions soon after, Mexico never did join UPOV 1991 -- an issue that re-surfaced during the TPP negotiations, and will likely be raised again during NAFTA renegotiations. During the negotiation of Chapter 17, IATP was part of a coalition that criticized the legal and economic disruption by patent holders of traditional agricultural practices, such as the planting of saved seeds and cross-breeding of shared seeds.[11]

What Is the Relationship Between NAFTA, the
World Trade Organization and the Farm Bill?

The rules set in NAFTA (1994), the WTO (1995) and the 1996 Farm Bill are mutually reinforcing. The WTO set a foundation of international trade rules for more than 160 countries. The WTO's Agreement on Agriculture set international trade rules on agriculture policy, including the types of farm programs that are allowed (non-trade distorting), tariff levels on agricultural goods and how those tariffs may be applied. If NAFTA were eliminated, the trade rules set at the WTO would be the fallback.

The 1996 Farm Bill passed by Congress was designed to comply with trade rules agreed to in NAFTA and the WTO. It stripped away the final remnants of U.S. supply management programs (with sugar the exception), which had intentionally limited production for the purpose of ensuring fair prices to farmers. The 1996 bill was given a slick market-friendly name, "Freedom to Farm" and its elimination of supply management was sold to farmers as necessary for expanding U.S. export markets. That expanded access, the bill's supporters claimed, would itself ensure fair prices to farmers. This did not turn out to be the case. "Freedom to Farm has really positioned the U.S. very well to take advantage of the opportunities in the world market," said a Cargill executive shortly after the bill was passed.[12]

Shortly following the passage of the 1996 Farm Bill, U.S. farm prices predictably plunged following the expanded production -- and tens of millions of dollars of emergency payments were needed to prevent many farmers from losing their farms.[13] Those low prices, coupled with NAFTA's and the WTO's requirements to lower tariffs, facilitated the rapid growth of agricultural export dumping (exporting below the cost of production) by U.S. agribusiness over the next decade.[14] Many Mexican farmers who were particularly hard hit by a flood of U.S. corn exports eventually emigrated to the U.S. to work on farms and in meat packing plants. In 2002, the Farm Bill took steps to convert the emergency payments for farmers into commodity program farm subsidies. These programs, further adapted in ensuing Farm Bills, support farmers when prices drop due to over-production, and continue today in the form of revenue-insurance programs.

What Are the Outcomes of NAFTA?

Because NAFTA entered into force around the same time as the formation of the WTO and the 1996 Farm Bill -- not to mention the series of free trade agreements that followed -- it is difficult to tie precise outcomes in the agriculture sector to NAFTA. But the trends in agriculture post-NAFTA very clearly show the loss of small and medium sized farms, the rapid expansion of CAFOs and contract production in the meat and poultry sector, and the growing power of multinational agribusiness firms across the North American market. Below we explore outcomes and trends in agriculture and food following the passage of NAFTA.

Agricultural trade

 NAFTA has dramatically contributed to the integration of North American agricultural markets, according to the USDA.[15] Integration is when formerly separate markets have combined to form a single market. Final food products, like beef, experience integrated markets as well as raw materials like animal feed.

Agriculture trade among the three countries has expanded considerably, though the U.S. agricultural trade balance with NAFTA partners has fallen with both partners, according to an analysis of government data by the University of Tennessee's Agricultural Policy Analysis Center (APAC). APAC found that from 1997 through 2014, U.S. overall agricultural trade balance with Canada was a negative $30.4 billion and with Mexico a negative $9.6 billion.[16]

The top U.S. agricultural exports to Mexico are animal products, grains, oilseeds and sugar, which together made up 79 percent of exports in 2015. Mexico is the top market for U.S. pork, chicken and corn. U.S. corn exports to Mexico more than quadrupled in volume compared to the decade prior to NAFTA.[17] Mexico bought about 28 percent of all corn exported from the U.S., $2.5 billion worth, in 2015-16.[18]

Mexican exports of fruits and vegetables and some animal products to the U.S. also expanded under NAFTA. In the year before NAFTA, the U.S. was largely a net fruit and vegetable exporter, and now is a net importer by a wide margin. Mexico's annual exports of fruit and vegetables to the U.S. more than tripled by 2013. Mexico and Canada are the largest foreign suppliers of U.S. fruits and vegetables.[19]

The integration of the North American market is perhaps best understood through meat and poultry production. Between 1993 and 2013, trade between the three countries in animal products increased more than three-fold from $4.6 billion to $15.5 billion.[20] U.S. beef exports rose 78 percent by volume since 1993, with Mexico being the number one importer and Canada number four.[21] The export of animal feed from the U.S. to Mexico's pork and poultry industries rose in correlation with increases in Mexican pork and poultry production.

Beef and pork production itself has become much more integrated between the three countries. The U.S. now imports live cattle from Mexico and Canada to finish and process. Mexico has averaged about 1.2 million head of cattle exported to the U.S. for fattening and processing each year since 2000.[22] These imports of live cattle have allowed the beef industry to depress the market price for U.S. raised cattle. The result is the reduction of the U.S. cattle herd and loss of U.S. cattle ranchers. According to the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund (R-CALF), the U.S. has lost 147,000 live cattle producers from 1996-2009.[23] Because Mexico and Canada brought a successful case at the WTO to challenge the U.S. mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) rule for beef, consumers in the U.S. do not know where their beef was born and raised.

Canadian hogs are also brought to the U.S. for slaughter. In 2014, the U.S. imported 3.9 million Canadian feeder pigs.[24] These pigs, birthed on Canadian farms, were finished and slaughtered in U.S. The pig products are consumed in the U.S. or exported, often to Canada or Mexico.

It is not just animal production that has cross-border integration as part of its business model. For example, cotton is produced in the U.S. and sent to Mexico to be turned into jeans and imported back into the U.S.[25] Much of U.S. seed is developed in the U.S. and then sent to Mexico to be "multiplied" or grown in sufficient quantities for sale to U.S. farmers.[26]

Farmers and ranchers

The integration of agricultural markets has led to a decline in the number of farmers in all three countries. The USDA does not monitor agricultural trade related job loss, and there is no NAFTA Trade Adjustment Assistance program for farmers as there is for some classes of industrial workers. However, USDA data shows a dramatic increase in the number of very large farms and a sharp drop in the number of mid-sized farmers after NAFTA.

From 1992 through 2012 the U.S. lost 245,288, or 22 percent, of small-scale farmers (under $350,000 annual gross farm income) and 6,123, or 5 percent of mid-sized farmers (under $999,999 annual gross farm income). As farmland ownership consolidated in the U.S., large-scale farms ($1 million and over annual gross farm income) increased by 35,066, or 107 percent.[27] The number of farms responsible for 50 percent of U.S. agricultural production was cut in half from 1987 through 2012.[28]

The loss of many U.S. farms during this period, linked to low commodity prices, is also connected to major changes in meat production. The CAFO model depends on cheap animal feed, often sold below the cost of production. In effect, cheap corn and soy, aided by the 1996 Farm Bill, served as a subsidy for CAFO production, according to research by Tufts University's Global Development and Environment Institute.[29] The expansion of factory farms, particularly in poultry and hog production, has led to most of U.S. meat production coming from fewer, big operations. The growth in CAFOs has coincided with the disappearance of independent poultry and pork producers -- now nearly all under contract with multinational meat companies like Smithfield and Tyson. Contract farming has been highly criticized for being unfair to producers, burdening them with up front costs, associated debt, and other financial risks, while not paying fair prices to cover those costs.

The dairy industry has also followed the CAFO model. Smaller dairies have been pushed out by lower prices, driven largely by over-production from increasingly large dairy CAFOs.[30] One of the driving motivations behind the dairy industry's active engagement in the TPP, and now NAFTA, is to tear down Canada's supply management program in an effort to absorb excess milk production from U.S. dairy CAFOs.

Farmers and ranchers in Mexico and Canada have also been hurt by NAFTA. Based on Mexican Census data, Tufts University researcher Tim Wise estimates that more than two million Mexicans left agriculture in the wake of NAFTA's flood of imports, or as many as one-quarter of the farming population.[31] And over the last 30 years, Canada has lost one-third of its farm families. Today, there are just under 200,000 Canadian farmers.[32]

Food system workers

The U.S. food system is deeply dependent on immigrant labor -- particularly fruit, vegetable and dairy production and meat processing. According to the Farm Bureau, U.S. agriculture relies on an estimated 1.5 to two million farm workers, with 50 to 70 percent of those unauthorized.[33]

While proponents of NAFTA argued that it would improve the economic conditions in Mexico and reduce the movement of immigrants from Mexico to the U.S., the exact opposite occurred (as critics like IATP predicted).[34] Mexico's poverty rate in 2014 was higher than its poverty rate in 1994, and real (inflation-adjusted) wages were almost the same in 2014 as in 1994.[35] From 1994 through 2009, Mexican emigration to the U.S. more than doubled. Since 2009 (directly following the financial crisis), that trend has started to reverse with more Mexicans returning to Mexico from the U.S. than entering the U.S.[36]

The reduction of the U.S. cattle herd has also led to the loss of beef processing jobs since NAFTA. According to the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, 50 plants have closed since taking out 52,695 in daily cattle kill capacity after the passage of NAFTA.[37] Meat processing in the U.S. had already begun a major reorganization in the 1970s and 1980s, transitioning to fewer, much larger meat packing plants, and moving those packing plants to rural areas where union organizing was more difficult. Simultaneously, poultry processing took off largely in anti-union southern states -- creating low-cost competition for the beef and pork industries. The availability of immigrant labor, including from Mexico, aided in the meat industry's efforts to break the unions and keep labor costs low.

U.S. factory farms, particularly dairy CAFOs, are deeply reliant on new immigrant labor, often from Mexico.[38] Working conditions are often difficult and new immigrants, often undocumented, have few legal protections. Latino immigrant workers in the New York dairy industry released a report this summer documenting poor treatment, including on-the-job injuries, intimidation, poor housing and long hours for low pay.[39]

The Trump Administration's aggressive anti-immigrant policies, from advocating for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border to making it more difficult for temporary agricultural workers to enter the U.S., are causing disruptions in agricultural operations across the country. A growing number of U.S. farm operations (primarily fruit, vegetable and dairy) face worker shortages due to the immigration crackdown.[40] The fruit and vegetable industry has testified before Congress calling for action to allow the entry of more workers.[41] The dairy industry is particularly concerned with the Trump Administration's aggressive anti-immigrant policies, warning that the price of milk could skyrocket without low cost, immigrant workers.[42]

While immigration rules are not explicitly included in NAFTA, there is little disagreement that the trade agreement contributed to rising immigration, and that U.S. agribusiness has benefitted greatly from that development.

Agribusiness market share

Since NAFTA, there has been a dramatic increase in agribusiness market share concentration in nearly all sectors including seeds, fertilizer, meat and crop production. Agribusiness concentration levels in U.S. agriculture are high and rising -- and as competition declines, farmers and ranchers are vulnerable to agribusiness efforts to depress prices, according to a recent USDA report.[43] In addition, it can be difficult for farmers and ranchers to gather market information, i.e., price transparency and price discovery -- in highly concentrated markets.

"One of the major consequences of NAFTA was the consolidation and restructuring of the agri-food system on the continent," writes Dr. William Heffernan of the University of Missouri. "This has led to profound impacts on firms, employees and communities even in the United States."[44]

The top 10 companies exporting foodstuffs from the U.S. to Mexico include grain companies Bartlett Grain, ADM, Cargill and CHS, as well as meat companies such as Tyson Foods and JBS, according to Panjiva, a trade data company. The top 10 companies shipping north include Driscoll's, a berry grower; Grupo Viz, a Mexican meat supplier; Mondelez, the U.S. snacks company; and Mission Produce, an avocado producer.[45]

Many of the global meat giants have operations throughout North America. For example, Smithfield has pork production joint ventures in Mexico with Granjas Carroll de Mexico and Norson. Brazillian-owned JBS's poultry division, Pilgrim's De Mexico, has multiple locations throughout Mexico. JBS, currently embroiled in a major bribery and food safety scandal, is also deeply invested in beef processing in Canada. Cargill, the meat and animal feed giant, has 30 facilities in 13 Mexican states and extensive meat and grain investments in Canada.

Smithfield, the world's largest pork producer now owned by the Chinese WH Group, benefited in particular from NAFTA. An analysis by Tufts University's Global Development and Environment Institute concluded that a glut of cheap animal feed resulting from the 1996 Farm Bill, allowed Smithfield to export pork to NAFTA countries at below the cost of production prices. The company then benefited from NAFTA's investment rules to expand its Mexican operations. The diminishing number of farmers in Mexico caused by NAFTA also provided access to cheap labor.[46]

When President Trump threatened to pull out of NAFTA, it immediately kicked their lobbying into high gear to reach the White House with their concerns. At the sole NAFTA public hearing held by the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), Cargill emphasized a cautionary approach "We appreciate the Administration's guiding principle of ‘do no harm' for the NAFTA renegotiations."[47] In comments to the USTR, JBS USA also urged the USTR to "first, preserve current market access and the conditions that support integrated value chains, including all tariff and duty preferences and rules that allow U.S. businesses to compete in the North American market."[48] And the U.S. Meat Export Federation warned, "any erosion in the market access terms contained in the existing NAFTA agreement would be highly detrimental for farmers, feedlots, meatpacking plants, and exporters."[49]

Food safety

Just as trade agreements have shaped U.S. farm policy to benefit agribusiness, so have trade deals contributed to the weakening of U.S. food safety rules to benefit food companies. The food safety, plant and animal disease provisions in NAFTA, known as Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS), and soon thereafter the establishment of the WTO SPS rules, helped usher in a new era of food safety de-regulation. NAFTA established that Mexico and Canada food safety regulations did not have to be "equal" (or the same as) to U.S. regulations, but rather the more difficult to interpret and verify "equivalent." The definition of "equivalence" was not part of NAFTA -- nor was the requirement that independent government inspectors, rather than meat company staff, do the actual inspecting.

Not only did NAFTA establish a food safety template for future trade deals in which trade concerns were given priority over consumer health, it also helped propel efforts to deregulate and privatize food safety inspection in the U.S.

As food safety expert and former IATP board member Rod Leonard has written, rules set at NAFTA and at the international standards body Codex, were used in 1996 to push U.S. food safety standards, particularly for meat and poultry, toward greater company controlled inspection. "As the global norm in food safety, 'equivalence' was intended to start the race to the bottom of food safety standards globally," Leonard wrote.[50]

Earlier this year, USDA auditors found that the meat inspection system for most meat processing plants (including JBS and Cargill beef operations) in Canada was not "equivalent" to U.S. standards. Canada has moved toward a privatized inspection system, with the companies taking on more responsibility, according to Food and Water Watch.[51]

The rise of food imports under NAFTA has increased pressure on food safety inspectors at the Food and Drug Administration and the USDA. According to Public Citizen, the FDA physically inspects only 1.8 percent of food imports it regulates (vegetables, fruit, seafood, grain, dairy and animal feed); and the USDA only 8.5 percent of beef, pork and chicken that is imported.[52]

The need for greater oversight of food imports has been severely undermined by inadequate funding of food safety inspection programs. In 2011, President Obama signed into law the Food Safety Modernization Act, but earlier in 2017, Congress appropriated only about half the resources needed to implement the law. A GAO report found that the FDA could not meet the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) mandate for inspections of foreign importers due to lack of resources.[53] According to food safety expert Bill Marler, "FDA is inspecting only about 2,500 foreign food suppliers today. The FDA should be inspecting nearly 20,000."[54]

NAFTA also allowed for the regionalization of food safety standards to facilitate trade in meat. This regionalization was particularly important in cases of animal disease outbreaks. For example, when localized outbreaks of Avian influenza hit specific counties in specific U.S. states, poultry trade with Mexico was allowed to continue uninterrupted, with the exception of those states.[55]

NAFTA's SPS rules have been tested in recent years with the development of animal diseases in multiple NAFTA countries. These diseases may be linked to high levels of market integration. In 2009, a new flu strain (a mixture of swine, human and avian flues) emerged out of the state of Vera Cruz Mexico, an area heavily populated by hog CAFOs, later spreading into parts of the U.S. There is some evidence that the initial strains of the flu emerged from North Carolina -- home to a high density of hog CAFOs -- leaving pathogen expert Rob Wallace to dub it the "NAFTA flu."[56] In 2014, a deadly porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv) in piglets hit both U.S. and Mexico pork production,[57] and this year the virus hit Canada.[58] As the U.S. has struggled with outbreaks of various strains of avian flu in confined poultry facilities throughout the country, so has Mexico in Veracruz, Puebla and Jalisco states, as has Ontario, Canada.[59, 60]


The adverse health effects of rising obesity rates have been well documented in the U.S.[61] Similar rising obesity rates in both Mexico and Canada have been linked to NAFTA. In the case of Mexico, increases in imports of sweeteners, processed foods and meats have translated into increased consumption of snack foods, processed dairy products and soft drinks.[62] Research published this year from Canada reached similar conclusions.[63]

Aside from increased imports, NAFTA's investment provisions helped facilitate the investment of U.S. processed food companies in both Mexico and Canada. Food sales associated with U.S. investment in Canada and Mexico are now substantial. In 2012, majority owned affiliates of U.S. multinational food companies had sales of $32.4 billion in Canada and $13.8 billion in Mexico -- these sales were 90 percent larger than the value of U.S. processed food exports to Canada and Mexico.[64]

Climate change

While greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions overall increased in all three countries during the NAFTA years, GHGs specifically tied to agriculture varied. In the U.S., agriculture-related GHGs increased from 1990 to 2015 by eight percent. The Environmental Protection Agency has identified the increase in CAFOs as a primary cause: "One driver for this increase has been the 64 percent growth in combined CH4 and N2O emissions from livestock manure management systems."[65] Agriculture-related GHGs increased slightly in Mexico from 1990 to 2015, also tied to the livestock industry.[66] Agriculture-related emissions have remained largely flat over the last decade in Canada.[67]

What Is the Process for Renegotiating NAFTA?

The President and the executive branch have the authority to negotiate with foreign countries, but Congress must ratify those agreements. The Trump administration must first give Congress a 90-day notice that it will begin NAFTA renegotiation. As part of that notice, the administration must outline its negotiating objectives. Those objectives must also be consistent with trade objectives outlined by Congress in Trade Promotion Authority legislation (also known as Fast Track), which is in effect until July 1, 2021.

In July 2017, President Trump announced his negotiating objectives for NAFTA. The objectives were quite vague, and followed very closely the trade objectives previously outlined under the Trade Promotion Authority legislation. For agriculture, the objectives emphasize the need to "maintain existing reciprocal duty free market access," expand market access by reducing any remaining tariffs, and promote "greater regulatory compatibility."[68] There has been little explanation from the Trump Administration on how it would achieve these goals.

The first round of NAFTA negotiations will begin on August 16, 2017 in Washington, D.C. Again, the President and the executive branch can negotiate and come to an agreement with trade partners, and by the letter of the law are meant to consult with Congress throughout, and present the new agreement to Congress for an up-or-down vote -- no amendments to the agreement are allowed. Trade negotiations typically take years, although the Trump administration has said it hopes to finish NAFTA by the end of 2017 or early 2018.

The Trump administration has threatened to pull out of NAFTA if it cannot reach a satisfactory deal with Canada and Mexico. In that case, the U.S. would have to provide Canada and Mexico a six-month notification of its intention to withdraw. In the case of withdrawal, trade would not come to a screeching halt between the countries. Mexico would shift toward most-favored nation status accorded all WTO members with the U.S., while it is likely that the 1989 U.S.-Canada Free Trade Agreement, which also eliminated most tariffs between the two countries, would govern trade with Canada. Canada and Mexico could continue under the terms of NAFTA in trade between the two countries if they so choose.

Aside from the technical process for renegotiation, the lack of transparency and public input into trade policy has been one of the major targets of criticism of past trade deals, including the TPP. Past trade deals have been negotiated largely in private, with a selected delegation of mostly corporate advisors at the negotiating table. Members of Congress are allowed to read the draft negotiating texts only in a secure room with a guard posted. Neither electronic devices nor expert advisors may accompany the Member of Congress, as they try to understand hundreds of pages of rules and thousands of pages of tariff schedules. The Trump Administration gave citizens only a small window for public input on NAFTA and less than a month public comment period (but nevertheless received more than 50,000 comments). The Administration held only a single public hearing on the agreement over three days in Washington, D.C.

The Trump Administration has largely abandoned existing trade advisory committees set up through the U.S. Trade Representative and other government agencies by the Federal Advisory Committee Act. The White House instead has created new avenues of corporate involvement in government broadly -- relying heavily on private interests to staff the administration from firms like Goldman Sachs and Exxon/Mobil. But the Trump Administration has also established an influential Business Council, chaired by the CEO of the agrochemical giant Dow Chemical, and including representatives from companies like Walmart, PepsiCo, and JP Morgan, among others.[69] [...]

To read the complete report click here.


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(August 2017)

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