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The Green Parties of California, Mexico, & Canada
Oppose the Proposed US-Mexican-Canadian
Free Trade Agreement (October, 1991)
by Mike Feinstein, Green Party of California, & others
Green Parties around the world stand for international trade policies that respect the ecology of the planet, the social needs of all people, and the political self-determination of communities, regions, and nations.
Green Parties are in fundamental opposition to economic policies promoting unlimited material growth and consumption. Current world trade practices reinforce these policies and have as their consequences the ecological destruction of the planet and the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the few, conditions both which pit North against South, rich against poor, and assure that injustice and inequity will be the rule.
For these reasons, Green Parties from Canada, Mexico, and California will actively oppose the proposed US-Mexican-Canadian North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Like existing international economic agreements such as the General Agreements on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the European Economic Community (EEC), and the US-Canadian Trade Agreement, the proposed NAFTA is not a recipe for clean and fair trade, but rather a license for capital and specifically transnational corporations to defy existing environmental, health, and labor standards and laws. Particularly alarming about these trade agreements is that they hold that the standards and laws that help create quality of life for people are impediments to the international competitiveness of transnational corporations; and that for this reason these standards and laws should be lowered or eliminated.
Green Parties are in fundamental opposition to economic policies promoting unlimited material growth and consumption...Green trade would not place nations in dependent situations where they...must undermine their ecology, impoverish their citizens, and forfeit their political sovereignty to avoid retaliatory economic actions by more powerful nations.
International trade from a Green perspective would embody an entirely different worldview. "Green trade" would promote ecologically sustainable, self-reliant economies for all peoples and nations. Green trade would be conditional upon commonly agreed upon high minimum environmental and human rights standards. Green trade would be conditioned upon the empowerment of peoples through democratic conditions such as land reform, community and cooperatively-based economics, and true political democracy. Green trade would also not place nations in dependent situations where they are export-driven to the extent that they must undermine their ecology, impoverish their citizens, and forfeit their political sovereignty to avoid retaliatory economic actions by more powerful trading nations.
A Green approach to international trade would emphasize sustainable economies based upon ecology, social justice, and a respect for political and economic self-determination. This last point is critical because international trade is not between communities, regions, or nations, but rather between individuals and transnational corporations acting in their own self-interests.
World capital is highly mobile, and investment is governed by absolute profitability rather than by either national affiliation, a concern to develop mutually advantageous trading arrangements between nations or a concern for democratically enacted environmental, health, and labor standards and laws. Highly mobile world capital indeed seeks to avoid such standards and laws, and has also generated serious trade imbalances between nations that have led to even further losses of economic and political self-determination. Therefore, without a recognition of domestic self-determination in any trade agreement, communities, regions, and nations will have no voice in international trade. Therefore, if the Greens were to agree to a Trade Agreement between the US, Canada, and Mexico, that agreement would have to include:
- a substantial reduction of the Mexican foreign debt with the goal of reducing it at least enough to help bring about ecologically-sustainable and socially-just development in Mexico. Debt reduction would reverse the current trend, where by virtue of "austerity" measures imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and the US Treasury, Mexico has been required to devalue the quality of life of most of its citizens by reducing the value of its currency, reducing its government expenditures and public sector, removing price controls, and deregulating, privatizing, and selling-off its economy.
- a gradual increase in the Mexican minimum wage, with the goal of a common US-Canadian-Mexican minimum. This rate of increase should be rapid enough to provide Mexican workers with the ability to meet their basic needs and their desired quality of life within an ecologically-sustainable context.
- an encouragement of diversified and resilient local, regional, and national economies in the U.S, Canada, and Mexico through the development of locally-based credit facilities and the development of import-replacement industries. This has the advantages of providing local employment, recirculating capital locally and regionally, reducing transportation costs, and reducing the chain of distribution that produces unneeded ecological costs and that allows them to be unaccountably externalized;
- a social charter guaranteeing Mexican, Canadian, and US workers common health and safety standards, collective-bargaining rights, and working conditions. The standards within this social charter should be harmonized at at least the highest existing levels among Mexican, Canadian, and US laws;
- a social tariff for the continental market that protects against imports from other nations that do not respect the continental minimum-wage; such a tariff would be equal to the difference in wages between the different trading blocks or nations;
Such a tariff should not be used to create a NAFTA trading bloc against other countries, especially those of the Third World. Therefore, such a tariff must be implemented in concert with debt relief and/or financial aid to other countries in similiar or worse situations than Mexico's so that these countries may also become more self-reliant and trade by choice on a more level trading playing field;
- a recognition of native peoples' land and treaty rights, a respect for their right to determine the use of natural resources on their land;
- an environmental charter—environmental standards and laws should harmonized at at least the highest existing levels among Mexican, Canadian, and US law; Debt relief and foreign aid should accompany this charter to enable Mexico to meet high environmental standards and thus not be penalized by the agreement;
- a specific rejection of "Export Processing" and maquiladora zones that are by design exempt from environmental protection laws set forth in the continental environmental charter;
- an environmental tariff that protects against imports from nations outside the FTA countries that do not apply at least the minimum environmental standards agreed to within the NAFTA; such a tariff would incorporate the environmental costs of non-compliance and would be applied against corporations and their products that are in non-compliance;
- significantly strengthen the border produce inspection procedures. Currently the US Food and Drug Administration only inspects 2% of transborder items;
- a True Cost pricing system or set of "Green taxes" that begin to reflect the environmental and health costs of the full cycle of resource extraction, use, and disposal involved in production and consumption;
- a set of Green "taxes" that begin to reflect the scarcity of non-renewable resources and raise the price so as to encourage their more intelligent and less wasteful use;
- the establishment in each country of a job retraining "superfund" to train or retrain workers for the transition to an ecologically-sustainable, peace-oriented, and bioregionally-based economy. Such funds could be drawn from the current military budgets of each country;
- the establishment in each country of an environmental restoration fund. Such funds will not be considered as "trade-distorting subsidies" as they are currently in the US-Canadian Trade Agreement;
- a removal of subsidies from fossil fuel and nuclear industries and a commitment of some or all of these funds to reorient the economies of Canada, Mexico, and the US to solar and other renewable fuels;
- a reservation of the right of any community, region, or nation to raise environmental, health, and safety standards and laws higher than the minimum agreed to between the three nations; and have this new standard or law not be considered illegal because it is considered to impede trade (i.e. a non-tariff trade barrier);
- establish an international decision-making body that can reverse the present trend and declare illegal the retaliatory economic measures aimed at countries that try to enforce their domestic environmental, health, and safety standards;
- a ban on the export of toxic and nuclear waste from the US, Canada, or Mexico.
(The above is excerpted from a backround paper prepared by Mike Feinstein, member of the International Working Group of the Green Party of California and of the International Working Group of the Greens/Green Party USA. It was revised in light of discussion by members of the Green Parties of Mexico, California, British Columbia, and Alberta at the North American Green Summit, September 27th-29th, 1991 at Earth Island Institute in San Francisco.)