Why isn’t the Republican-led United States Congress working to repeal and replace the unpopular, job-destroying NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) instead of the popular, life-saving Affordable Care Act? That was the central question of the “fair trade” Replace NAFTA Rally outside the National Governor Association conference in downtown Providence yesterday.
Organized by Our Revolution, Rhode Island Jobs with Justice and Citizen Trade Watch, the rally focused on Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, chair of the National Governors Association, “to support a NAFTA replacement that puts people and the planet first.”
“We need fair trade that works for citizens and the environment!” said organizers in a statement, “We are fighting to make NAFTA the trade deal it should be: one where workers are treated fairly, the environment is treated with respect, and corporations play by our rules, not their own.”
Rose Espinola, who emceed the rally, started the rally having to deal with some push back from two people who argued that replacing NAFTA was a Donald Trump policy and therefore not a “left” issue. To be sure, Trump did promise to rework NAFTA, one of the many “populist” positions he played with on his road to the presidency. What has been seen of Trump’s proposal so far has been more in the realm of minor changes that might satisfy big corporations, rather than a full repeal and replace that would prioritize people over company profits.
Larry Cohen, former president of the Communications Workers of America and currently chairman of Our Revolution, a political group organized by Bernie Sanders, spoke at the rally.
“We’re talking about fair trade, not free trade,” said Cohen, “Fair trade means that all the people in the Americas would get decent healthcare, not the pharmaceutical companies running roughshod over all of us…”
To drive home the idea that preserving or enhancing healthcare is related to the repeal of NAFTA, Cohen lead a chant suggested by Karen Malcolm, of the Preserve Our Healthcare Coalition.
“Fair Trade! Medicaid!”
Michael Araujo of Rhode Island Jobs with Justice.
Liz King, trade justice organizer and former nurse.
Rand Wilson of SEIU