Protect our health and the environment by requiring all imported goods and services meet U.S. standards.
How does NAFTA 2.0 measure up?
Demand: All products imported into the U.S., all cross-border services and all service providers operating in the United States, including trucks, must comply with U.S. health, safety, environmental, land use and zoning, licensing, professional qualification, privacy, transparency and consumer access policies.
Our initial review of the Services, Financial Services and Technical Barriers to Trade Chapters and a new chapter called Sectoral Annexes in the new text reveals the same sorts of provisions that we have long criticized as undermining domestic consumer safeguards. A chapter entitled “Good Regulatory Practices” appears to be largely unrelated to trade, but rather focuses on obliging each country to adopt practices that seem aimed at limiting the creation and maintenance of consumer and environmental safeguards. The Financial Services Chapter reverses the U.S. position with respect to the final text of the TPP that provided an exception for financial data to the general prohibition on requiring data to be stored locally. This exception was pushed by the U.S. Treasury Department based on the agency’s concerns about being able to access information during financial crises. The exception was supported by consumer groups, who also are concerned about the security of sensitive and confidential data stored offshore and the ability to obtain redress in the case of a data security breach occurring in another country. The Services Chapter also includes damaging new disciplines on countries’ domestic service sector regulation that reverse a longstanding U.S. position in WTO negotiations against additional constraints.
The exception to what is generally problematic language around this demand is that one longtime concern has been addressed: The text includes a fix for a longstanding problem related to environmental and safety concerns with Mexican-domiciled long-haul trucks that were provided access to roads throughout North America by NAFTA. The Clinton administration decided not to allow access beyond a limited border zone based on a series of Department of Transportation Inspector General reports on safety and environmental problems with the vehicles. Mexico challenged this policy before a NAFTA dispute settlement tribunal and won. The Bush administration provided access, which Congress then reversed. After a NAFTA tribunal authorized Mexico to impose $2.4 billion in trade sanctions against U.S. imports for failure to comply with the NAFTA terms, the Obama administration approved access for Mexican-domiciled trucks despite the failure of a pilot program that was established to test whether the vehicles complied with U.S. safety and environmental rules. The revised NAFTA text includes new U.S. exceptions to the old NAFTA trucking obligations that allow the U.S. government to limit grants of the authorizations required to provide cross-border long-haul trucking services.
There is no new safeguard for environmental, health and other public interest policies. The new text only includes the exceptions language found in the original NAFTA that is based on the same construct used in Article XX of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). Relative to the original NAFTA text, the new text does add related language that is derived from Article XIV of the WTO’s General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), which was concluded after the original NAFTA. Only two of the 47 instances when a country tried to use the GATT or GATS exceptions ostensibly designed to protect environmental and health policies were successful. Thus, replicating such exceptions would not provide effective safeguards for domestic policies, which is why we demanded a new effective exception.