Sanders: Keep your promises to workers to get my NAFTA vote
Per this report from POLITICO Pro, Democrats are feeling empowered after the election outcome in Alabama., and Bernie Sanders is talking about NAFTA.
Sen. Bernie Sanders on Wednesday outlined how President Donald Trump could get his support for a revised NAFTA agreement, and called on him to lift the veil of secrecy surrounding the talks.
“We are here to send a very loud and clear message to Donald Trump: For once in your life, keep your promises,” Sanders said at a rally with other critics of the nearly 24-year-old North American trade deal.
The Vermont independent urged Trump “to fundamentally rewrite NAFTA to stop decent-paying jobs from being outsourced to Mexico, to stop corporations from polluting the environment, to stop the race to the bottom and to improve the living conditions in the United States, Canada and Mexico.”
Sanders, who ran a strong race for the Democratic presidential nomination last year, voted against NAFTA in 1993 and has opposed nearly every trade deal since then.
During last year’s campaign, Trump repeatedly branded NAFTA as one of the worst trade deals in history and promised to make changes to bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States or pull out of the pact.
At the #ReplaceNAFTA rally, Sanders said he believes the White House is listening too closely to corporate advisers in rewriting the pact. “Today, as we speak, the negotiations on NAFTA are taking place behind closed doors. Our demand: Open the doors, let working people in,” Sanders said.
Still, groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable complain the Trump administration has made many proposals that they — as well as Canada and Mexico — cannot support.
The talks currently appear deadlocked over a number of controversial U.S. demands, such as dramatically tightening auto rules of origin to require more parts be made in the United States and including a “sunset review” provision that would terminate the deal after five years unless countries agree to renew it.
Neither of those items appeared prominently on Sanders’ list of reforms.
Instead, he and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, another fierce opponent of past trade deals who led the battle against the TPP, called for stronger labor and environmental protections and the elimination of several provisions of the current pact, such as the investor-state dispute settlement mechanism that allows corporations to sue governments over actions that they believe have adversely affected their investment.
The revised deal also must eliminate “incentives” for companies to move jobs to Mexico and undo previous commitments that allow Canadian and Mexican company to participate in “Buy America” government procurement programs, both lawmakers said.
Sanders, who left the event early, did not say whether Trump should withdraw from NAFTA if he can’t strike a new deal with Canada and Mexico. But at least one speaker thought that was the best course of action, even though farm and business groups warn that pulling out of the deal could cost jobs across the United States.
“If we don’t get a better NAFTA, we’re better off not having any NAFTA at all,” said Peter Knowlton, president of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers union.
Others were more cautious in urging Trump to pull out if a new deal cannot be reached.
“Everyone is very focused on what is going on right now, which is the renegotiations. And we are fighting for a deal we can support,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, which has been at the forefront of fights against trade deals for 25 years.
DeLauro underscored that point, arguing their job is to “push the edge of the envelope” to ensure the Trump administration comes back with a deal that she and other Democrats can support.
“We need to call attention to the kind of pressure that corporations are putting on this process, in the same way that they have in the past, and that’s what has to be defeated,” DeLauro added.
A number of speakers accused Trump of pretending to be a friend of the working man to get elected — and challenged him to prove them wrong by listening to their demands.
“It is time for Donald Trump to actually act like the populist he ran as, as opposed to the elitist and the corporate CEO that he’s acting as right now,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. “If you make a promise to the American people, keep that promise. And he made a lot of promises to American workers.”