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Rethinking Trade with Lori Wallach

Rethinking Trade with Lori Wallach

By Rethink Trade
The changes needed to support living-wage jobs, to combat the climate crisis, to make medicines accessible for all...
Much of it won’t be possible unless we overhaul our corporate-rigged trade system. Trade Expert Lori Wallach and Activist Ryan Harvey explore ways to make our progressive trade vision a reality. Rethink Trade is an initiative of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch.
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Rethinking Trade in 2021: What Are We For?
With Georgia’s run-off elections shifting control of the Senate to the Democrats, the party will have a lot more room to pursue progressive reforms than in previous years. What does this mean for fixing our rotten trade rules, and what kinds of policies should we be pursuing? In part one of this episode, we address this question by discussing the TRADE Act of 2009. Co-sponsored by 135 members of the House and developed with a coalition of labor, environmental and other civil society organizations, the TRADE Act laid out a comprehensive vision for trade policies that would promote employment and development while protecting the environment and public health. But a lot has happened since then, from the harsh lessons COVID-19 had taught us about the facilities of hyperglobalization to the growing climate crisis to Big Tech’s monopoly choke hold. So how would progressives build on the vision of a decade ago? In part two, we look at President-Elect Biden’s commitment to impose a moratorium on new trade deals until major investments are made to protect U.S. workers, and we discuss how important it is that this period also include a process of rethinking and fixing U.S. trade policy to work for people and the planet.
January 19, 2021
How U.S. Trade Policies Disproportionately Impacted Black and Latino Workers, w/Special Guest Dolores Huerta
In this episode, Lori is joined by Dolores Huerta, co-founder with Cesar Chaves of the United farm Workers and renown civil rights activist, to discuss our Trade Discrimination report. This new research reveals how decades of corporate-rigged trade policies have disproportionately impacted Black and Latino workers. In her decades of labor and civil rights activism, Huerta has witnessed how corporate-rigged globalization has gutted Latino and Black livelihoods and communities nationwide. Trade Discrimination: The Disproportionate, Underreported Damage to U.S. Black and Latino Workers From U.S. Trade Policies, published this week at Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, details how U.S. structural, race-based social and economic inequities that undermine the economic and social welfare of people of color have been further exacerbated by U.S. trade policies. You can find the report here.
January 11, 2021
U.S. Officials Are Blocking Global COVID-19 Vaccine Access at the WTO
World Trade Organization (WTO) rules undermine access to COVID-19 vaccines and medicines. That’s why scores of countries are demanding that the WTO’s monopoly protections for pharmaceutical corporations be temporarily waived so COVID-19 vaccines and treatments can be produced worldwide. This is essential to ensure enough affordable doses to end the pandemic and save lives. But U.S. trade officials are blocking the waiver, insisting that even during this deadly global pandemic, Big Pharma profits should come first. The question is: Will this position change under a Biden administration? Click here to take action. Click here to learn more.
December 18, 2020
What Will Biden’s Cabinet Picks Mean for U.S. Trade Policy?
President-elect Biden’s appointment of the next top U.S. trade official has taken on enormous political and symbolic value. In just a few weeks, the White House is going to look a lot different – but what about U.S. trade policy? On this episode, we examine whether the new president’s political commitment to fixing some of the worst aspects of the old corporate-rigged trade agenda will become reality, or if the office of the U.S. Trade Representative will function as a gateway for big corporations to write the rules.
December 4, 2020
Preview: The Friendly Troll - The US Kenya FTA Part 3, featuring Lori Wallach
Lori "sat down" recently with The Friendly Troll host Dr. Melissa Omino and Dr. Isaac Rutenberg from Kenya's Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law to discuss the US-Kenya free trade agreement currently under negotiation. Listen to the full episode here.
November 23, 2020
Whatever Happened to Trump’s Big China Deal?
Donald Trump makes a big deal out of what he calls his “big deal” with China. But Trump’s “Phase 1” China trade deal actually encourage U.S. companies to outsource jobs to China. Meanwhile the Chinese government is not following through on its promise to increase purchases of U.S. agricultural goods. The second phase of the China deal is MIA. And that’s the part that was supposed to bring down the trade deficit by getting China to stop subsidizing it exports. Not on the agenda at all were stronger labor protections and other rules that would’ve actually made a difference for working people here and in China. That’s a real problem, because labor conditions in China remain bleak. On this episode we break down Trump’s China trade deal and how it became yet another one of his broken promises to working people. Learn more at Music: Groove Grove by Kevin MacLeod Link:
October 27, 2020
How We Were Fast Tracked Into Corporate-Rigged Trade Deals
The most damaging U.S. trade agreements were hatched using the same process: “Fast Track.” Fast Track empowers the executive branch to unilaterally select partner countries for trade deals, decide their contents and negotiate and sign them – all before Congress gets to vote on the matter.  Meanwhile, hundreds of official U.S. trade advisors representing corporate interests have special access to texts and negotiators. Under Fast Track, when Congress finally has a say, it is limited to a “yes” or “no” vote with limited debate and amendments forbidden.  The result? Wide swathes of U.S. law and policy entirely unrelated to trade get rewritten with the public and Congress locked out, and the U.S. is locked into corporate-rigged agreements with trade sanctions imposed on us if Big Pharma does not get special protections, food imports that do not meet U.S. safety standards are prohibited or foreign investors do not get better treatment when they offshore investment.  But there’s good news: Fast Track only exists if Congress grants it. And the last grant ends on July 1st, 2021. That means soon, we will have a chance to create a new process with the public and congress playings the lead role in the formative stages of trade deals with more accountability over trade negotiations. Learn more at Music: Groove Grove by Kevin MacLeod Link:
October 14, 2020
Big Oil Wants to Use a Stealthy Trade Deal to Kill African Environmental Protections
Chemical, oil and gas companies face plastic bags bans and other policies to fight the plastic waste that is clogging rivers and choking our oceans. Since China banned plastic waste imports in 2018, the industry has sought a new place for the garbage as vital to maintaining demand for sales of more single-use plastics.  A recent New York Times exposé identified the U.S.-Kenya Free Trade Agreement now being negotiated by the Trump Administration as the chemical and oil industries’ vehicle to gut Kenya’s cutting edge plastics policies and establish a gateway to make Africa a new dumping ground for plastic waste. In this episode, we discuss the Kenya plastics case as sadly just one of many examples of how corporate-rigged trade rules can undermine and gut a country’s domestic environmental protections. Learn more at Music: Groove Grove by Kevin MacLeod Link:
September 28, 2020
Offshoring Continues: The Data vs. Trump’s Promises
Donald Trump pledged he would swiftly eliminate the huge job-killing U.S. trade deficit, end job outsourcing and rebuild manufacturing. Did he? The government collects data on each issue, and it’s been a triple fail.  Learn more at Music: Groove Grove by Kevin MacLeod Link:
September 21, 2020
How Free Trade Divided the Democratic Party
Many Americans are confused – does any U.S. political party stand for trade policy that puts working people first? Since the late 1980s, Democratic and Republican presidents alike have systematically sided with corporate elites in support of “free trade” deals like NAFTA.  While most Congressional Democrats have sided with working people against them, a few have joined the overwhelming majority of Republicans who support and pass corporate-rigged trade deals. Trump railed against such deals, and then pushed new ones packed with giveaways for Big Pharma and Big Tech corporations. In this episode, we untangle the confusing politics of trade.  Learn more at Music: Groove Grove by Kevin MacLeod Link:
September 16, 2020
Online Retail Giants Sneak Attack by Trade Pact
Online retail giants like Amazon have been quietly stuffing trade agreements with terms that handcuff governments from protecting consumers or breaking up the online behemoths. What these corporations and their government co-conspirators call “digital trade” rules are in fact designed to forbid governments from protecting our privacy, holding the online giants accountable for dangerous or fake products they sell us, and empowering us to control our personal data.  “Digital trade” rules being pushed in U.S. trade deals give some of the world’s largest corporations further control over our personal data and the online-retail market. Learn more at Music: Groove Grove by Kevin MacLeod Link:
August 31, 2020
What’s the Real Story With All the “Buy American” Hype?
Since the 1930’s, “Buy American” rules have required that the U.S. government purchase goods – from cars and computers to planes and paper –  that are made in the United States.  But these rules that recycle our tax dollars to support jobs and promote domestic innovation have been severely undermined by our trade policies in the last few decades. Today, “Buy American” really means that companies and products from 60 countries must be given the same access to the almost $600 billion spent annually in U.S. government contracts as U.S. firms and products. Effectively, we now outsource our tax dollars to support jobs in other countries.  On this episode, we unpack these policies and examine both Donald Trump and Joe Biden’s recent Buy American policy proposals. Learn more at Music: Groove Grove by Kevin MacLeod Link:
August 19, 2020
Did You Buy PPE Made by Uyghur Forced Labor in China?
China has 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic-minorities locked up in concentration camps in western China. Others are being shipped all over the country as forced-laborers to a network of factories supplying Nike and a slew of other U.S. companies, including those producing PPE. You may be buying these products thanks to loopholes in U.S. trade laws that are supposed to ban the sale of forced labor goods.   On this episode we discuss efforts currently underway to end the exploitation of China’s Muslim political prisoners, the latest from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, and how good trade policies rooted in human and labor rights could prevent such nightmare scenarios in the first place. Learn more about the campaign at Learn More. View Episode Transcript. Music: Groove Grove by Kevin MacLeod Link: License:
July 28, 2020
Trade-Related Job Losses Have Continued Under Trump
Despite Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign promises to “bring back jobs,” trade-related job losses have continued under the Trump administration. Under the Labor Department’s narrow Trade Adjustment Assistance program alone, 176,982 workers have been certified as losing jobs to trade since 2017. Trade-related job losses have been especially high in California, Michigan, Ohio, Michigan, Virginia, and Washington state.  On this episode we break down these figures and discuss Public Citizen’s Trade Adjustment Assistance Database, the online portal where you can search by zip code, state, company name and more for trade-related job losses across the United States. Learn more at Music: Groove Grove by Kevin MacLeod Link:
July 20, 2020
The New NAFTA: Only Improvements on Paper or Real Change?
Last week we discussed the new North American Free Trade Agreement and some of the key improvements we won after years of organized public pressure. The new NAFTA took effect on July 1st. The text requires significant new labor rights and includes strong enforcement. But corporations paying Mexican workers starvation wages are conspiring with right wing Mexican state officials to thwart any real change. The Mexican national government is not stepping up, and the new Mexican labor law is pinned down under a barrage of legal attacks.  In this episode, we breakdown some of these hurdles and discuss how political pressure, grassroots campaigning, and civil society monitoring efforts are needed to translate the new NAFTA’s improvements on paper to real material differences in workers’ lives. Learn more at Music: Groove Grove by Kevin MacLeod Link:
July 10, 2020
New NAFTA’s Start Marred by Labor Activist’s Arrest
After a multi-year campaign by unions, civil society groups and congressional Democrats won critical improvements to the bad NAFTA 2.0 deal Trump signed in 2018, the new North American Free Trade Agreement goes into effect on July 1.  But it’s a bad start: a leading Mexican labor lawyer, Susana Prieto Terrazas, has spent weeks in jail on trumped up charges for helping workers use USMCA’s labor rights, and Mexico’s new USMCA-compliant labor law is bogged down by hundreds of lawsuits aimed at derailing it.  In this episode we discuss the decades-long movement against the original NAFTA, that pact’s outcomes, the recent Replace NAFTA campaign and the cross-border effort to free Susana Prieto Terrazas. Learn more at Music: Groove Grove by Kevin MacLeod Link:
June 30, 2020
ISDS Corporate Attacks Against COVID-19 Emergency Measures
Governments are taking emergency action to fight COVID-19, counter economic disaster and ensure peoples’ basic needs are met. Now corporate law firms are targeting those actions for outrageous Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) attacks.  ISDS law firms are actively recruiting multinational corporations to sue governments before a panel of three corporate lawyers to obtain unlimited taxpayer compensation for government actions related to the COVID emergency. These ISDS tribunals can even order compensation for multinationals’ loss of expected future profits and there is no outside appeal.  In this episode, Lori explains the immediate ISDS danger and breaks down the regime’s history of attacking environmental protections, consumer safety regulations and democracy itself. Learn more at Music: Groove Grove by Kevin MacLeod Link:
June 22, 2020
The Hong Kong Protests VS. China's Democracy Crackdown
Hong Kong is at a significant crossroads—and its special trade status with the US has become a central point of leverage in determining the outcome of this crisis.  One year ago, millions took to Hong Kong’s streets in response to the Chinese government’s attempts to limit free speech, protest and unions rights. The protests would become one of the largest sustained protest movements in recent history, and would succeed in derailing repressive legislation that Chinese leadership was pushing through the Hong Kong legislature. But last month, China moved to skirt that legislature and impose from Beijing a national security law that threatens the freedoms of the Chinese government’s critics. It would allow HK residents to be arrested for criticizing the Beijing government and jailed in mainland China.  In this episode, Lori and Ryan discuss the protest movement and the central role US trade policies are playing in influencing the future of Hong Kong. Learn more. View Episode Transcript. Music: Groove Grove by Kevin MacLeod Link: License:
June 16, 2020
Crisis at the World Trade Organization
Today, the World Trade Organization is in a major crisis of its own making, with its over-reaching enforcement regime derailed, its Director-General abruptly announcing his resignation and legislation introduced in both chambers to terminate Congress’ approval of the organization.  When the WTO was launched in 1995, we were promised by an array of corporations and politicians that it would usher in a new era of win-win globalization that would deliver higher wages and good jobs. Instead, as activists and union members warned, the WTO has facilitated a race to the bottom in wages and mass job outsourcing, especially after China joined in 2001. The WTO has ruled again scores of U.S. policies, including environmental and consumer protections.  What happens next at WTO affects us all. In this episode Lori digs in the history of the organization and describes the significance of its current crisis. Learn more.  View Episode Transcript. Music: Groove Grove by Kevin MacLeod Link: License:
May 27, 2020
The Loophole That Lets Amazon Deliver Uninspected Imports to Your Door
Nearly 2 million imported products we buy online every day enter the United States and are delivered to consumers’ doors without any inspections. That’s thanks to a trade law loophole that also lets these imports dodge the fees that brick-and-mortar stores pay for the same products.  Amazon and other E-commerce giants pushed for this change to what is called de minimis import policy, and it has facilitated a new flood of fake and unsafe imports that threaten consumers while undermining local businesses. Learn more at Music: Groove Grove by Kevin MacLeod Link: License:
May 18, 2020
As U.S. Pressures Mexico to Re-open NAFTA Factories, Workers Protest
COVID-19 deaths are still on the rise across Mexico. Despite government orders to close all non-essential firms, some U.S. factories have continued operating–with little consequence. Now the U.S. ambassador and hundreds of multinationals are demanding the country prioritize corporate interests over the safety of Mexican workers – by reopening factories now.  With the new NAFTA going into effect on July 1, how will the COVID crisis impact the deal’s new worker-protection requirements and Mexico’s related labor reforms? Learn more.  Episode Transcript Here.  Music: Groove Grove by Kevin MacLeod Link: License:
May 12, 2020
A Progressive Shock Doctrine on Globalization?
To try to address human needs during the COVID-19 crisis, many governments have shredded the concepts and laws underpinning corporate-managed hyper-globalization. A quick return to business-as-usual is not likely.  In this episode, we discuss Lori’s recent piece in Le Monde Diplomatique, where she identifies four main ways in which the current moment provides unique opportunities to win significant structural changes to make the global and domestic economy fairer, more resilient and more sustainable.  What comes next depends largely on how we mobilize today. With many people who had been sheltered from the ravages of hyperglobalization now personally affected and fuming about the United States not being able to make or get essential goods needed to save lives, it’s time for a progressive “Shock Doctrine.” Learn more. Episode Transcript Here.  Music: Groove Grove by Kevin MacLeod Link: License:
May 6, 2020
The Looming COVID-19 Medicine Shortage
The COVID-19 crisis revealed how reliant the United States has become on imported masks, respirators and other essential medical goods. The latest news is about medicine shortages.  Decades of bad trade and tax policies have incentivized pharmaceutical corporations to outsource the production of many categories of drugs – and also production of the Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) that are drugs’ key ingredients. Most APIs come from just two countries, China and India. As workers there have fallen ill and plants have been closed for social distancing, production has dropped. In many categories, there is no domestic production to make up the difference. Learn more. Episode Transcript Here. Music: Groove Grove by Kevin MacLeod Link: License:
April 28, 2020
Governments, Not Corporations, Should Regulate Trade in COVID-Crisis Goods
Today, instead of corporations unilaterally deciding where and when to sell every product, governments worldwide are doing what many expected of them all along - prioritizing residents’ needs and securing medical goods. In this episode Lori explains why such reasonable conduct is actually forbidden by trade agreements and what changes are needed to create a more resilient, equitable global economy. Learn more. Episode Transcript Here.  Music: Groove Grove by Kevin MacLeod Link: License:
April 20, 2020
Crisis Capitalism COVID Response: Let’s Do More Rigged Trade Deals, No One’s Watching…
With everyone rightfully focused on fighting COVID-19, corporate lobbyists are hard at work pushing for more of the same failed trade policies that helped create the unreliable supply chains now failing us all. We dive into a couple of their latest attempts, including proposed free trade deals with Kenya and the UK and efforts to use stealthy World Trade Organization talks to limit regulation of monopolistic online platforms and climate-killing energy firms. Learn more. Episode Transcript Here. Music: Groove Grove by Kevin MacLeod Link: License:
April 13, 2020
COVID-19: Bad Trade Rules Have Weakened Our Response
Trade expert Lori Wallach breaks down how corporate-led globalization has fueled shortages in our medical supply-chains and limited our ability to fight against coronavirus.  Learn more. Episode Transcript Here.  Music: Groove Grove by Kevin MacLeod Link: License:
April 3, 2020