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Trump’s Plan To Renegotiate NAFTA Fails American Workers

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Trump’s Plan To Renegotiate NAFTA Fails American Workers


Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

Promises were made.

And workers believed candidate Donald Trump when he pledged to stop corporations from exporting American factories. Workers cast votes based on Trump swearing he would end the trade cheating that kills American jobs.

This week, though, workers got bad news from Washington, D.C. President Trump proposed virtually eliminating funding for a Labor Department bureau that helps prevent U.S. workers from having to compete with forced and child labor overseas. In addition, the administration issued only vague objectives for renegotiating the job-killing North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

When NAFTA has cost at least 900,000 Americans their jobs, vague is unacceptable. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said his first rule in negotiationsfor a new NAFTA would be to “do no harm.” That’s not good enough. That’s the status quo, and promises were made. The first rule should be to “do substantial good.”

Substantial good would start with clear, firm goals for renegotiating NAFTA. That would include returning those 900,000 jobs to the United States. That would include restoring the jobs the United States continues to lose, like the 350 that disappeared this year when Rexnord closed its Indianapolis ball bearing factory and moved production to Mexico. And like the 632 jobs at Carrier in Indianapolis that will begin vanishing this week when the first layoff notices are issued because the heating and air conditioning manufacturer shifted some production to Mexico.

In Monterrey, where both Rexnord and Carrier moved jobs, the minimum wage is $3.90 a day. Not an hour. It’s $3.90 a day. There is no way for American workers to compete with that. What they were looking for from the NAFTA renegotiation goals is some help.

Instead, they got pabulum. Yes, there’s a whole section on labor, and it says the labor provisions should be in the main document, not in a side agreement. But the fuzzy language doesn’t provide much hope for workers like those who just lost their jobs at Carrier and Rexnord.

It says, for example, that NAFTA countries should have laws regarding minimum wage, hours of work and occupational health and safety. That’s great. But Mexico has a minimum wage. It’s one so low that, as former presidential candidate Ross Perot would say, it sucks American factories right across Rio Grande.

The NAFTA negotiation targets don’t say that the minimum wage should be a living wage or specify how it would be policed to prevent forced and child labor.

Within the U.S. Department of Labor, there’s a section called the Bureau of International Labor Affairs that monitors compliance with labor provisions in international trade agreements and pays for programs to reduce child and forced labor internationally. The intent is to prevent American manufacturing workers earning family-supporting wages from competing with third world children paid with bread and blankets.

The administration has, however, said it wants to gut that program, cutting its funding by 80 percent. In addition to workers, American food and clothing corporations have objected. Nate Herman, a senior vice president for the American Apparel and Footwear Association, told the Washington Post that without the bureau’s efforts, “you’re saying, basically, that it’s okay for forced labor and child labor to run rampant, which undercuts our own labor force.”

Without specific protections in NAFTA and without even the Bureau of International Labor Affairs programs, U.S. workers are subjected to a no-win competition with exploited foreign workers. The Americans end up unemployed, like those at Carrier and Rexnord. The foreign workers continue to be abused.

Promises were made to American workers. They need to be kept. Big league, not halfway.

For example, the solution to Carrier, owned by United Technologies, moving out of Indiana was a half measure.

United Technologies spared about 700 jobs at the Indianapolis Carrier plant only after Vice President Mike Pence, then governor of the state, handed the corporation $7 million. None of the 700 jobs at the other United Technologies plant in Indiana was saved. All of those went to Mexico.

That’s not what Donald Trump promised on the campaign trail. At a rally in Indianapolis last spring, he pledged: “Here’s what’s going to happen. They’re going to call me, and they are going to say, ‘Mr. President, Carrier has decided to stay in Indiana . . . One hundred percent. It’s not like we have an 80 percent chance of keeping them or a 95 percent. 100 percent.”

But then, it was President-elect Trump who called Carrier. And it wasn’t 100 percent. It wasn’t even 80 percent. And, to make matters worse, United Technologies CEO Greg Hayes said that the millions he’d promised to invest in the plant would be spent on automation, further reducing jobs.

This is, according to the Trump administration, Made in America Week. It began at the White House Monday with a showcase of products produced in every American state, from fire trucks to door hinges. But to really revive American manufacturing, the administration must keep its campaign promises. And that means strong language in a renegotiated NAFTA and strong enforcement of other international trade deals and trade laws.

“No harm” is not enough for the administration that promised to cure the injury that international trade inflicted on workers.

Leo W. Gerard is president of the United Steelworkers union. President Barack Obama appointed him to the President’s Advisory Committee on Trade Policy and Negotiations. Follow him on Twitter @USWBlogger.



  1. FireBaron July 22, 2017

    Folks may want to take a look at what is happening in factories in Mexico before blaming NAFTA. Quality Assurance is an alien concept at many of these locations. As is job stability. Why? There is always someone to take a job for less money than someone else, including those who are supposed to oversee the quality of the production.
    That’s why many companies that had relocated factories to Mexico are now relocated to the Pacific rim – especially items requiring significant hands on in the production. Oh, yes, there are still factories in Mexico, but many of them were designed to take advantage of automation, requiring fewer workers. So even Mexico feels they have gotten the short end of the stick.
    Because ask yourself this – if there were all those great manufacturing jobs in Mexico, especially along the US border, why do we still get people trying to cross illegally?

    1. Devonmlopez July 22, 2017

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    2. NAFTA was not designed to mitigate, and really is – at best – peripheral to discussion of, increasing job automation.

      It’s also seen wages and job conditions improve enormously in Mexico, and introduced a bunch of environmental protections.

      1. Juliecpatel July 23, 2017

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    3. Also, the entire character of illegal immigration altered considerably in the years following NAFTA’s introduction, in part because there suddenly WERE jobs in Mexico. Far more illegal immigrants are now people who’ve been in the country for years beforehand.

    4. Sorry for triple reply, but I just thought of a really good comparison: NAFTA is the Obamacare of trade agreements. It’s flawed, and too conservative in approach, but overall it works, and is WAY better than what was around before (nothing).

      (this is the best hot take).

      1. Independent1 July 22, 2017

        Agree; especially your last sentence. See my comment to FireBaron below.

        1. I already saw it!

    5. Independent1 July 22, 2017

      I’m sorry, but over the past 20 plus years, NAFTA has done more positive for America than harm. I have no sympathy whatsoever for those who are whining about NAFTA.

      According to the above article NAFTA is supposed to have cost America about 900,000 jobs, whoopy doo! According to the following article from knowledge.wharton, at least 12 million jobs in America are now dependent on the trade between the U.S., Canada and Mexico which is directly related to the NAFTA agreement. And also according to that article, although not really significant America is about 128 Billion/year richer because of the increased business that NAFTA created.

      On top of all that, manufacturing jobs in America over the past 50 years have kept pace with or exceeded the actual growth in the economy – the growth in the GDP. There are more manufacturing jobs in America today as a percentage of all jobs than there were 50 years ago. So where are all these NAFTA naysayers coming from?? It sure beats me!! My guess is it’s people who have been so wedded to their old jobs, that they haven’t been willing to undertake the training that is needed as manufacturing jobs have moved from one business sector to the other.

      See this article:

      NAFTA’s Impact on the U.S. Economy: What Are the Facts?

      On the positive side, overall trade between the three NAFTA partners — the U.S., Canada and Mexico — has increased sharply over the pact’s history, from roughly $290 billion in 1993 to more than $1.1 trillion in2016. Cross-border investment has also surged during those years, as the stock of U.S. foreign direct investment (FDI) in Mexico rose from $15 billion to more than $107.8 billion in 2014.

      Supporters of NAFTA estimate that some 14 million jobs rely on trade with Canada and Mexico combined, and the nearly 200,000 export-related jobs created annually by NAFTA pay an average salary of 15% to 20% more than the jobs that were lost, according to a PIIE study.


      1. Anti-NAFTA rhetoric always seemed to me to be far more about anti-Clintonism than mere pedestrian facts.

        1. Independent1 July 22, 2017

          Yes, it does seem that those criticizing NAFTA do tend to be those who would support people like Trump and and are therefore those leaning right who would also be critical of the Clintons. And in addition, I think they’re diehards who are hesitant to give up the jobs they’ve loved for so many years and won’t willingly retrain as production advancements phased out their old jobs or were shipped overseas by corporate pirates like Romney. (I still think most of those 900,000 jobs NAFTA haters claimed were lost to NAFTA were actually victims of Romney and his corporate pirate ilk.)

    6. Independent1 July 22, 2017

      And a lot of manufacturing jobs that were sent overseas (especially those that require tricky manufacturing processes with close tolerances) are actually coming back to America because companies like Pratt & Whitney that manufacture jet engines found after lots of trial and error, that most cheaper manufacturing facilities overseas just produce too much junk. (Too many parts that have to be trashed in order to get one good part that actually meets all the specs.)

    7. dpaano August 3, 2017

      Good point….I didn’t think of that, but you’re absolutely correct!

  2. ivory69690@yahoo.com July 24, 2017

    DUMPSTER for the people of America and the workers this should be done to bring to light your BULLSHIfTING DONNY DUMPSTER keeps saying make in the USA and hire the people from the USA he wants all jobs and more jobs for the people of the USA !! the media should find out just how many workers its taking to make all the products that him and his CULT KLAN brain washed family . press find that out the number (or even a round about number ) of workers its taking to make all the DUMPSTER’s family products out of the USA and over sea’s and just where and how many workers its taking was from the USA’S that those jobs could be done from people right here in the USA . number each country that the DUMPSTER KLAN’s has people have in each one of them that the job could be working from the USA .. in 1983 THE DONNY DUMP CLOWN SHOW’s news head lines were DUMPSTER DONNY is doing a lot of dealings with what thy was calling RED MONEY =Russian Mob he has been doing too many dealings with the RED MONEY and for too long . so as for the special prosecutor Mueller and him doing his job following the money will be the best and truly only way to get to the bottom and results needed of all the DUMPSTER and his Russian B/F PUTTHEAD ties . as for how that pair that swing from the back of a bull stole the white house

  3. ivory69690@yahoo.com July 24, 2017

    and one can bet that the DUMPSTER DONNY did make deals with PUTTHEAD with promises of thing he would give an get to him and Russia but being the king of fraud , cons & scamming all his DUMPSTER LIFE he cant do the promises he gave PUTTHEAD and is reneging on the deal now . America should let just a few of the RED MONEY guys come into the USA to collect their money the DUMPSTER promised them . send in and let the RED MONEY LEG BREAKERS collector in give them visa’s just to take the DUMPSTER CLOWN out of the country . heck pay them bonuses just to get the trash filled DUMPSTER out of here

  4. dpaano August 3, 2017

    What’s sad is that most of the Trump voters only heard one thing from him…..he was going to save their jobs. What they didn’t realize was that his comment about “doing away with NAFTA” was not going to allow this to occur. In other words, they only listened to the “pros” and didn’t take into account the “cons.” They were led to believe that doing away with NAFTA would bring jobs back to the United States, but in actuality, it will not if Trump cuts the budget and cuts important departments in the Labor Department. They will see more and more of their jobs moving to robotics or moving to other countries who can pay their workers peon wages and have no human rights regulations!

  5. ivory69690@yahoo.com August 5, 2017

    he again will fail


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