Public Health Comments Concerning Proposed U.S.-North American Free Trade Agreement
Center for Policy Analysis on Trade and Health (CPATH)
Submitted to the U.S. Trade
Representative, June 14, 2017
brings a public health voice to debates
on trade and sustainable development, through research, policy analysis, and advocacy. Public Health Objectives below outline
recommendations for NAFTA negotiations to safeguard
the health of Americans and our trading partners,
and promote economically and
socially just, democratically controlled, and environmentally
Trade negotiating objectives and rules must complement and safeguard strong domestic policies that reduce economic
inequality and strengthen economic and health security. In contrast, trade policies that would
further enrich and empower the already-wealthy will be a bad deal for Americans and for our trading partners.
New Trade Deal: A Smokescreen for Corporate Interests
Glaring inequality is increasing in incomes
and wealth between the super-rich,
and the majority of the population. Workers experience precarious and low-paying jobs, at the same time as social
costs such as health care and education are shifted to individuals.
Ownership of transnational corporations has become more concentrated.
Financial services increasingly dominate the U.S. economy, and its priorities influence U.S. policy, including trade
rules. Global trade agreements have contributed to these developments.
The Trump campaign of 2016 addressed public unease
about these trends in part by proposing to change or eliminate NAFTA, including re-imposing tariffs as the key to increasing
employment in the U.S. Wider scrutiny and debate has established that these problems, and likely solutions,
are more complex. However, the Administration’s discussions of proposals for renegotiating NAFTA
increasingly echo provisions of the vastly unpopular, corporate-driven Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), roundly
abandoned right after the November, 2016, election.
In other policy arenas, the Administration similarly proposes policies
that widen income inequality for the majority of Americans, while reaping huge gains for mega-corporations and the wealthy:
The budget proposes tax
breaks that enrich the already wealthy, while eliminating programs like Meals on Wheels that are vital to Americans in need;
The Administration is rushing to enact other policies that would widen income
inequality for the majority of Americans, including cutting health care, and dismantling Dodd-Frank legislation, which attempts
to put the brakes on irresponsible maneuvers by banks and financial institutions that generated the Great Recession in 2008,
driving millions of Americans into income insecurity.
Public Health Objectives for the United States-North
American Free Trade Agreement [Summary]
1. Assure democratic participation by public health and transparency in trade policy.
Develop mutually beneficial trade relationships
with trade partners that create sustainable economic development in an increasingly interdependent world.
Recognize the legitimate exercise of national, regional and
local government sovereignty to protect population health.
- Ensure that
countries do not weaken or reduce, as an encouragement for
trade, sound policies that contribute to health
and well-being and democracy, including laws on public health, the environment, labor, occupational safety and health,
food safety and healthy food supply, human rights, and internet freedom.
provisions that give foreign
corporations the right to file trade disputes based on measures of state and local governments, and that give greater rights to foreign investors than to domestic
tariff and non-tariff provisions that address vital human services
such as health care, water supply and sanitation, food safety and supply, and education, including licensing and cross- border movement of personnel in these fields.
tobacco and tobacco products, which are lethal, and for which the public health goal is to reduce consumption,
from tariff and nontariff
provisions of NAFTA, including
advertising, labeling, product regulation and
We note that the Canadian Free Trade Agreement, Part IV, Article 806,
states: “This Agreement does not apply to any measure adopted or maintained by a Party
relating to tobacco control.” [Adopted April, 2017. Applies
to trade among Canadian provinces.]
6. Exclude alcohol products, which present serious hazards to public health.
7. Eliminate intellectual
property provisions related to pharmaceuticals. Recognize compulsory licenses
for patented pharmaceuticals, parallel
importation, and other measures that address high prices and promote access to affordable
We note that financial pressure to prioritize stock prices also increasingly drives up pharmaceutical