Faith communities call for a NAFTA renegotiation that puts people and planet first

Contact: Chloe Schwabe, Chair, cschwabe@maryknoll.org, 202-549-1696

Washington, D.C.-  Yesterday, the Trump Administration sent official notice to Congress calling for a renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement. For nearly twenty years, the Interfaith Working Group on Trade and Investment has called for a transparent and open trade policy that respects and supports the human dignity of every person, the integrity of God’s creation, and advances the common good.

Based on the leaked proposal in April, we fear that a modernization of NAFTA that would include some of the worst provisions of TPP will further exacerbate inequities at the expense of vulnerable populations and creation.

In keeping with the teachings of our faith traditions and the lived experience of mission, we share the following reactions from select members of the Interfaith Working Group on Trade and Investment:

“In 2009, the United Church of Christ called on then President Obama to renegotiate a “more humane, democratic, and ecologically sound” version of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). With the news of the Trump Administration’s notice of its intent to renegotiate NAFTA, we would echo a similar call to this administration. We would support any renegotiation that would reverse the impact that NAFTA has had on rising income inequality and the growth of rights and profits of corporations at the expense of workers across North America,” said Reverend Michael Neuroth, Policy Advocate for International Relations with the United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries, “We call on the Trump Administration to ensure that the process be fair and transparent.  Specifically, a new NAFTA agreement should eliminate special corporate ‘investor protections’ and maintain the participation and protection of individuals and communities most impacted by NAFTA.  Like the image in Micah 4:4, we envision a trade system and economic order in which all can ‘sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid.’ That is our vision, to build a ‘Just World for All.’”  

“For too long the negotiation and implementation of free trade agreements has prioritized the interests and voices of corporate interests, at the expense of the poor and vulnerable- those most affected by the actual agreements. Columban missionaries live with and serve those communities around the world and so witness how this lack of participation and prioritization of vulnerable communities negatively impacts their ability to live with dignity and sustainability. Any renegotiation of NAFTA needs to be a transparent and inclusive process that promotes the common good and ensures everyone has a seat at the table.” –Scott Wright, Director, Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach

“When the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) passed almost a quarter of a century ago, proponents promised it would lead to job creation in North America, increased living standards for workers and protection of the environment. While some have benefited, it is clear that our trade agreements have been an important driver of inequality, both domestically and abroad,” remarked Laura Peralta, Senior Government Relations Advocate, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice,  “One of the most adversely impacted communities is small farmers.   In Mexico, we have seen population losses in the countryside and increased food insecurity.  Rural dislocation has been a leading cause of migration from Mexico to the North because small farmers cannot support themselves at home.  Renegotiating NAFTA offers the possibility to address food insecurity, remedy the incentive that drives rural dislocation, and fix other problems if the Administration seeks changes that puts the needs of vulnerable communities first.  Small farmers in Mexico should not be forced to migrate to ensure that their families can survive,” Peralta continued.  (Read full statement)

“In his letter, The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis warns us of a globalization of indifference. Our NAFTA trade model has been indifferent to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor. Maryknoll missioners have witnessed an increase in hunger, income inequality, and environmental degradation in Mexico since NAFTA went into force. We need a new trade model that prioritizes human dignity and God’s creation over corporate profits,” - Gerry Lee, director of the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns. (Read Full statement)

“In Mexico, trade policies and domestic economic policies have opened up communal indigenous lands, which were protected in the 1917 Constitution, to extractive industries. Now, more than 30 percent of Mexico’s land mass is concessioned to private enterprises. These activities have contaminated water sources and diminished the amount of productive farmland available for indigenous communities to feed themselves,” remarked Phil Dahl-Bredine, a returned Maryknoll Lay Missioner now based in Mexico, “No one I know here realistically expects that a renegotiation of NAFTA will solve any of Mexico’s problems. The hope is that it will not exacerbate them.”

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Additional media contacts

Laura Peralta Schulte, Senior Government Relations Advocate, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, lperalta@networklobby.org

Reverend Michael Neuroth, Policy Advocate for International Relations with the United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries, NeurothM@ucc.org

Rebecca Eastwood, Advocacy Associate, Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach, reastwood@columban.org 

 

This statement was put together by the Interfaith Working Group on Trade and Investment, of which the Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach is a member. The Washington-based working group with representatives from a range of faith-based organizations is committed to asserting a stronger presence of communities of faith in public policy discussions on international trade and investment.