Rethink Trade fights for good jobs, a healthy environment, robust and fair markets where small businesses can thrive and safe and affordable medicine, food and goods. And we believe those who will live with the results must decide the policies affecting their lives. That’s why we work to replace the current “trade” rules that were formed by and for the world’s largest corporate powers with damaging results for most people and the planet.
Big Tech is trying to hijack trade negotiations to lock in their massive powers and stop government efforts to end Big Tech abuses of workers, consumers and smaller businesses. The corporations are misbranding their attack against necessary government regulations as new “e-commerce” or “digital trade” policies and agreements. But this “digital trade” offensive in fact is just a stealthy new front in the ongoing power struggle between a relatively few digital mega-platforms versus national governments and all of us. Big Tech’s goal is to tie the hands of Congress and U.S. agencies before they can protect us from Big Tech abuses while trying to roll back the best gig worker and privacy protections, anti-monopoly and anti-discrimination rules worldwide.
President Biden pledged to create a new “worker centered” trade agreement model. This is not only smart policy, but politically necessary. Decades of corporate-rigged trade pacts caused such significant harm to people and the planet that the last such deal, the TPP, couldn’t garner a majority in Congress during the Obama administration — proving the old trade model is no longer politically viable. The Biden administration proposes negotiations for an Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) and an Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity (APEP). If talks start, will they promote or undermine goals people nationwide demand like ending Big Tech abuses against workers, consumers and smaller businesses, cutting medicine prices, fixing broken supply chains, and more.
Decades of hyperglobalization as implemented by corporate-rigged “free trade” policies have concentrated the production of essential goods in too few countries and companies. This model has hollowed out U.S. manufacturing capacity and left the U.S. overly dependent on long, brittle supply chains for essential goods. This exposes us to economic, public health and national security vulnerabilities. We must replace the failed hyperglobalization model with pro-worker, pro-equity, pro-community, pro-environment rules for the economy to promote reliable and resilient supply chains, domestic economic security and infrastructure, climate, public health and other goals.
Corporate-rigged trade agreements have promoted the outsourcing of jobs to countries where wages are low and workers have no rights. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and its many Free Trade Agreement (FTA) clones include foreign investor rights that make it safe and easy to relocate jobs. But these pacts have no enforceable labor or environmental conditions on the products that are sent back for sale here duty-free. The U.S. government certified more than one million Americans lost their jobs to NAFTA. In 2020, Congress voted to update NAFTA with better labor standards and enforcement. Much more remains to be done to fix the old trade agreement model. But, we can test if the labor terms can make a difference for workers here and in Mexico.
Unless governments take action to expand global production capacity for COVID-19 vaccines, diagnostic tests, and treatments, we will face an endless cycle of new variants. Some could be more lethal. Pharmaceutical corporations have used intellectual property monopolies imposed by the World Trade Organization and other “trade” pacts to limit how much and where COVID-19 medicines can be made. Despite the vast majority of WTO member nations supporting an emergency waiver of WTO IP barriers that undermine global access to lifesaving COVID vaccines, at a June 2022 Ministerial conference, the pharmaceutical industry and its governmental allies in a few wealthy countries blocked the waiver. Now, more than three years into a pandemic and with more than 15 million dead, the fight for global access to COVID meds continues! Most WTO countries now seek a decision to ease WTO IP barriers limiting global production and distribution of generic COVID treatments and tests.
with Lori Wallach
Welcome to Rethinking Trade with Lori Wallach, where we unpack “trade” policy, law and politics and how it affects your daily life more than you think. Much of what is labeled trade today is not about actual trade stuff, like tariffs or quotas.
We’ll reveal how Big Tech, Big Pharma, Wall Street et al. use the trade brand to rig the rules against working people, consumers, small businesses and farmers and consolidate monopoly control, outsource jobs and undermine food safety and our environment. We’ll debunk myths used to sell the corporate-managed trade agenda, which also has done major damage in the developing world. And, we’ll share alternatives we support.
Welcome back to the Rethinking Trade podcast. Today we bring you the second half of our conversation with Suresh Venkatasubramanian. Suresh co-authored the Biden administration’s Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights, and is a leading national expert on AI oversight. With the imminent Biden Executive Order on Artificial Intelligence setting binding U.S. AI policy, there’s never been a better time to get smart on this technology that impacts our lives.
Today in part two, we dive deeper into the AI landscape and uncover a potential landmine: Big Tech’s plans to rig trade agreements with “digital trade” rules that could derail AI accountability and oversight.
(If you missed Part One of our special two-part series on AI, you can hear it here.) Lori Wallach and Daniel Rangel chat with Suresh Venkatasubramanian, who is now with Brown University after serving as Assistant Director for Science and Justice in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Daniel joins Lori in this discussion because he just authored an interesting that unpacks the specific ways AI accountability could be undermined if Big Tech interests get their way in trade negotiations. Daniel’s report is super accessible, which is good because Big Tech’s digital trade ploy is very sneaky.
Please give Daniel’s report a read after you listen to this two-part series!