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Trump’s USMCA Will Be a Sustainability Disaster

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The Trump administration has submitted a planned U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Many experts say the new pact will be horrendous news for those who care about affordable medicine, climate change, the environment, and a range of consumer safeguards because it gives big multinational corporations a free pass to operate with virtual impunity.

According to some experts, the new deal is the next step in a Trump administration deregulation campaign aimed at helping big business at the expense of consumers. The USMCA will free up food companies to attack safeguards that affect their bottom lines. It also throws out previous regulations that protect the environment, worker safety, and chemical regulations said to “over-burden” companies. USMCA also benefits the agrochemical industry by smoothing over GMO safeguards, experts say. Big companies like Bayer-Monsanto and Dow-DuPont stand to win big if the new Trump measures are adopted.

Environmental groups in America and around the world refer to Donald Trump’s ties to big energy and his clear mission to assist corporate America where profiteering natural resources are concerned. Groups like Sierra Club, and even business people like Bloomberg News owner, Michael Bloomberg say recent initiatives like Trump’s “beautiful, clean coal” nonsense will end in a polluting catastrophe. They say even the best coal plants pollute groundwater and put mercury and greenhouse gases into the air. Their contentions are logical and clear, and just how anyone can separate Trump moves on domestic energy from this USMCA dealmaking is just crazy.

To highlight the fears, Steve Schwartzman at the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) warms us on the U.S.-Mexico end of this deal, and of Presidents Trump and Enrique Peña Nieto’s ignorance and blindness toward the environment:  

“This bedrock “me-first” provincialism isn’t just based on generic ignorance. It ignores the fact that we all share a single planet and increasingly, things that happen in one place affect other places – ecologically and economically.”

USMCA also means more pipelines and exports of natural gas and oil that will, in turn, encourage more fracking in the U.S. and Mexico. It contains provisions that will set consumer banking safeguards and data privacy protections back decades, and it gives pharmaceutical companies a monopoly on patent protections that would raise some drug prices. According to the section of the agreement that deals with the environment and climate change, Chapter 24 pays lip service to multilateral regulation on environmental matters. However, Mike Sommers, who’s President and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute praised USMCA and asked American legislators to pass the deal:

"We urge Congress to approve the USMCA. Having Canada as a trading partner and a party to this agreement is critical for North American energy security and U.S. consumers. Retaining a trade agreement for North America will help ensure the U.S. energy revolution continues into the future."

The new trade deal allows companies to run amok in almost ever industry-restricted in the past by fair regulation. Companies can now sue over fracking bans, drilling leases, and steps back decades where the fight against global warming is concerned. The USMCA deal is NAFTA all over again, but with major changes in cars and policies on labor and environmental standards, and intellectual property protections. The Friends of the Earth group issued a press release with this statement by the group’s director, Doug Norlen:

“Trump’s trade agreement with Mexico and Canada is a corporate giveaway intended to sharply limit the powers of government to protect people and the planet.”

This new trade agreement by the Trump administration does have some big hurdles to get over before becoming law. The agreement has to get past Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto before the Mexican president leaves office at the end of November. Next, the deal still needs to be ratified by all three governments. Canada and Mexico will likely approve the deal, but the US. Congress likely won’t consider any agreement until 2019. If the Democrats take control of the House or the Senate, getting the agreement passed may be a toss-up.

Of even more concern are the deal’s effects on agriculture, and specifically GMOs. The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy has pointed out the deal will streamline approval and trade of controversial agricultural biotech, and Agriculture.com reported recently saying, "The Trump administration will attack overseas regulations that restrict the export of GMO crops." And, the agricultural impact is not only on the Mexico-US end of the agreement, but the deal also means more milk sent to Canada from cows that have been injected with genetically engineered rBST, a growth hormone that boosts their milk production. The Biotechnology Innovation Organization, "the world's largest trade association representing biotechnology companies," has already endorsed and backed the USMCA trade agreement.

The underlying dangers of this trade deal become apparent if we examine the rhetoric and policies of entities supporting biotech and energy. A case in point is a statement Brian Innes, who’s president of the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance.

“The major benefit of this language in the USMCA is it sets a new standard … to prevent (trade) barriers related to plant breeding innovation.”

So, the GMO companies are not only grinning because President Trump is opening the floodgates for GMOs, the industry’s broader plan is to “convert” the world to genetically engineered food. Detractors contend Trump’s new NAFTA will fast-track approvals that will not only put more GMO food on people’s tables but which will consolidate the control that farmers and agrochemical societies hold farmers. The agreement states plainly:

“In order to reduce the likelihood of disrupting trade in agricultural biotechnology products, each Party will continue to encourage applicants to submit timely and simultaneous applications to the Parties for approval, if necessary … "

Finally, the USMCA agreement increased the power of corporations to harm people, communities and their collective rights. The deal will, in turn, let these companies do even greater damage to the environment, to worsen poverty, and lead to human rights abuses in all three countries. The Trump deal worsens the dreadful international trend of empowering corporations, which can only lead to a sustainability disaster in the future.

Author: Winston Smith