Sunday, October 8, 2017
In anticipation of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights’ country visit to the U.S. in December, the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable sent a submission addressing the Poverty Impact of Corporate Influenced Trade Policy in the United States. ICAR argues that “[g]iven the relationship between trade, poverty, and the enjoyment of human rights, it is critically important to examine how trade policy is developed in the United States, who is sitting at the negotiating table, and what impacts these policies are having on the realization of human rights” The submission focused on communities ravaged by trade policies, including the loss of millions of jobs and its deleterious impact on struggling families, many of whom live below the federal poverty line. Those communities are further harmed by depleted local coffers that result in decreased public spending, which in turn impedes access to public infrastructure and welfare systems. Through their focus on the benefits to corporations, ICAR argues, U.S. trade policies ignore the damaging impact on human rights, including the right to an adequate standard of living and the right to health. ICAR recommends several policy shifts aimed at prioritizing the consideration of human rights in trade policy, including increasing transparency and participation by affected communities, the development of mechanisms to conduct human rights impact assessments, the development and implementation of laws and policies that address the prominence of corporate influence in trade policymaking, and undertaking an analysis of and efforts to redress shortcomings in the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program.
On another front, last month a group of NGOs including ICAR, EarthRights International, Greenpeace, the AFL-CIO and the Institute for Policy Studies wrote to the US the Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who is in the process of renegotiating NAFTA. The organizations ask him to safeguard the goals of addressing the Agreement’s harms and that revisions benefit “the economies and populations of the United States and of our trading partners.” They letter cites the Ambassador’s previous statement that central to that objective is ensuring that “dispute settlement provisions [be] designed to respect our national sovereignty and our democratic processes.” The organizations “support this negotiating objective and therefore urge the United States to reject and remove the investor-state dispute settlement system (ISDS) under Chapter 11 of NAFTA that empowers multinational corporations to undermine U.S. sovereignty and the United States government’s efforts to enact policies to protect the public interest, human rights and the environment.” In closing, the letter exhorts the Ambassador to honor the “growing international consensus that in order for trade and investment to be fully beneficial to all, international investment agreements must not undermine human rights and environmental protections.”