Printer Friendly

Expanding trade and creating American jobs.

The issue here is not whether we should support free trade or open markets. Of course, we should. The real issue is whether or not we will have A national economic strategy to make sure we reap the benefits, And the answer today is - we don't.... It is in that context that we have to look at this North American Free Trade Agreement. Is it good for Americans? Will it help us to develop a high-wage, high-growth economy here at home? Or, by opening Mexico to more U.S. and foreign investment, Win it simply encourage more United States companies to abandon their workers and communities here and move to Mexico? Will it depress wages of those who are left here, and will they even have ironically, less money to buy the products that Mexico will send back to this country?

Well, if you look at the experience of the maquilladora plants, those who have moved to Mexico right across the border, there is certainly cause for concern. We can see clearly there that labor standards have been regularly violated; that environmental standards are often ignored, and that many people who have those jobs live in conditions which are still pretty dismal not just by our standards, but theirs. So there is some reason to fear that there are people in this world and in our country who would take advantage of any provisions insuring more investment opportunities simply to look for lower wages without regard to the human impact of their decisions.

Still, you must look at the other side of the coin. Changes in Mexico under President Salinas have ballooned oui two-way trade with them and have eliminated the trade deficit we once had with Mexico, thus creating jobs here in America even as our investment policies have cost them. . . .

I believe NAFTA can contribute to this effort, not undermine it, as long as we move aggressively to address the serious omissions from the agreement. I believe we have to do more for our own workers, to protect the environment on both sides of the border, both because it's good for the environment and because if they don't do it, it will further lower their cost of production, to promote prosperity on both sides of the border. If we do these things and, again, if we develop a serious economic policy at home, then NAFTA can be a very good thing for the United States.

We simply cannot go backwards when the rest of the world is going forward into a more integrated economy. We cannot go inward when our opportunities are so often outward. For all our history, America has moved ahead and reached out, colonizing a wilderness, exploring a continent, always seeking what President Kennedy called the New Frontier.

And today we must forge ahead again. As president, I will seek to address the deficiencies of the North American Free Trade Agreement through supplemental agreements with the Canadians and the Mexican government and by taking several key steps here at home. I will not sign legislation implementing the North American Free Trade Agreement until we have reached additional agreements to protect America's vital interests. But I believe we can address these issues without renegotiating the basic agreement. . . .

Although it is unpopular with some people and organizations that I admire . . . , I thin% we should go forward with [NAFTA] because it advances our interests, the interests of ordinary Americans, more than it undermines them if we also do the other things needed to deal with the deficiencies in this agreement and if we have a good, new economic policy. The agreement reduces and eventually eliminates trade barriers in place, especially in Mexico, against a number of major American exports. It opens up larger markets for our goods and services. It will phase out virtually all tariffs between the U.S. and Mexico over the next fifteen years, with some of the most sensitive products being given the longest transitions.

Yet, as I said, there are critical issues which remain unaddressed, from workers' rights to farmers' needs to environmental protection. . . . As president, I will ensure adequate measures are taken, before Congress acts to implement the free trade agreement. I don't want to give up all our leverage to help our workers and to make sure our environment is protected by basically ratifying the agreement through legislation. I think that we don't have to reopen the agreement, but we do have to insist that protection of our workers, and for the environment proceed on parallel tracks. We should do it all at once. . . .

There are several areas now that we have to negotiate, supplemental agreements which I would want to present together with the agreement that's already been negotiated. Before implementing the agreement, we must establish an environmental protection commission with substantial powers and resources to prevent and clean up water pollution. The commission should also encourage the enforcement of the country's own environmental laws through education, training and commitment of resources, and provide a forum to hear complaints.

Such a commission would have the power to provide remedies, including money damages and the legal power to stop pollution. As a last resort, a country could even be allowed to withdraw. If we don't have the power to enforce the laws that are on the books, what good is the agreement? We must have some assurances on this. This is a major economic, as well as an environmental, issue. Best of all, I'm going to ask Senator Gore to take charge of ensuring that an effective commission is established and that it does work to protect the environment. . . . Al Gore and I will ensure that the environmental protection commission is up and running when the free trade agreement is up and running.

A second commission with similar powers should be established for worker standards and safety. It too should have extensive powers to educate, train, develop minimum standards and have similar dispute resolution powers and remedies. We have got to do this. This is a big deal.

Perhaps the toughest issue of all is how to obtain better enforcement of laws; already on the books on the environment and worker standards. It's interesting that the agreement negotiated by the Bush team goes a long way to do this in protecting intellectual property rights and the right to invest in Mexico, but is silent with respect to labor and the environment. I want to remedy that. I'm interested in the impact of this agreement on the rest of the people, not just those investing in Mexico, but the rest of the people in this; country and the rest of the people in their country.

So we need a supplemental agreement which would require each country to enforce its own environmental and worker standards. Each agreement should contain a wide variety of procedural safeguards and remedies that we take for granted here in our country, such as easy Access to the courts, public hearings, the right to present evidence, Streamlined procedures and effective remedies. I win negotiate an agreement among the three parties that permits citizens of each country to bring suit in their own courts when they believe their domestic environmental protections and worker standards aren't being enforced.

Finally, I want to ask Congress to grant the authority to the president to continue negotiations on the impact of this treaty. What if we have a global agreement? How will that impact this? And most important, what happens if there is an unexpected surge in imports in one sector or another that displaces huge numbers of people in this economy? . . .

I believe we should negotiate a parallel agreement that deals with the fact that neither the Mexicans nor the Americans know what the fun consequences of this agreement are going to be. You can't get anybody to agree on how many jobs we're going to lose or how many jobs we're going to gain out of this. And I think it,s fair to say that we don't v7ant to do anything that's unnecessarily crippling to them, and they shouldn't want to do anything that's unnecessarily crippling to us. . . .

But let me say again, it's not enough just to stop what they are doing wrong. We have to do some new things right.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Lewis & Clark Northwestern School of Law
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Trade and the Environment
Author:Clinton, Bill
Publication:Environmental Law
Date:Apr 1, 1993
Previous Article:Is this land really our land? Impacts of free trade agreements on U.S. environmental protection.
Next Article:The environment and world trade.

Related Articles
Preserving the trade system.
Trading Places.
10 truths about trade: hard facts about offshoring, imports, and jobs.
10 fallacies and rebuttals: mistaken ideas about the so-called Free Trade Area of the Americas abound. The faulty reasoning behind 10 very common...
Congressmen blast the WTO: though the House rejected a measure that would have withdrawn the U.S. from the WTO, a vocal minority of representatives...

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters