By ALAN BENJAMIN
On February 5, 2014, Andrés Manuel López Obrador filed legal charges against Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on the grounds the president’s “energy reform” law and other counter-reforms — all implemented to conform to the terms of the NAFTA agreement — were the actions of a “traitor to his country.” In a speech to the press conference held immediately after filing the charges against Peña Nieto with the Attorney General’s Office (PGR), AMLO, as he is widely known, stated the following:
“The people should have been consulted on the ‘energy reform.’ … Enrique Peña Nieto conducted negotiations with U.S. government officials in which he agreed to hand over our oil resources to foreign oil companies.
“The decision to ‘reform’ Articles 25, 27 and 28 of the Mexican Constitution was agreed to outside the borders of our country. Article 27 of the 1917 Constitution very clearly established the ownership and control by the Mexican people over our natural resources, especially our oil.”
AMLO went on to pledge what he and his newly formed Movement for National Renovation (Morena) would set out to accomplish once their movement took power in the presidential election of 2018. He stated, in part:
“When our movement [Morena] triumphs, we will reaffirm and reclaim what since 1917 has been established in Article 27 of the Constitution, namely, the ownership and control by the nation over our natural resources, over our oil.
“We will reverse all the anti-popular, country-selling measures. This is the goal of our movement.
“When our movement triumphs, we are going to cancel, we are going to repeal, the so-called ‘labor reform’ law. We are also going to do the same with the ‘education reform’ law and with the ‘fiscal reform’ law.”
And he concluded:
“Of course, we are going to repeal the ‘energy reform’ law. We take this opportunity to remind the owners of Exxon, Shell, and Chevron that they cannot expect to do good business in our country — because our oil belongs to the people, it belongs to the nation.”
Moving on to the USMCA (aka NAFTA 2.0)
During his election campaign and once he took office, Donald Trump railed at the NAFTA agreement, under which all these dictates detrimental to Mexican sovereignty were implemented. He said that NAFTA was a “very bad deal” for the United States, and for U.S. corporate interests in particular. He insisted that NAFTA must be re-negotiated to put “America First,” and that Mexico and Canada needed to open their markets even further to U.S. corporations.
Throughout the entire NAFTA re-negotiations process, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer insisted that one of the provisions of NAFTA dear to U.S. Big Business interests absolutely had to remain in the new agreement; namely, the Investor-State-Dispute Settlement provision, or ISDS. Under ISDS, U.S. investors can sue the Mexican or Canadian governments should these governments maintain or promote policies deemed “barriers to trade.” This includes restrictive regulations on corporations, “excessive” taxes on corporations, monopolies (national enterprises or services), protectionist laws, etc.
Under NAFTA, Peña Nieto began the privatization of Pemex, Mexico’s oil corporation, as Pemex was considered a “barrier” to U.S. investment in Mexico’s oil resources. It was precisely this privatizing “energy reform” law that AMLO denounced so forcefully in his speech in February 2014.
U.S. oil corporations were worried that if AMLO were to win the July 2018 presidential election, he would move, as pledged, to repeal the “energy reform” law of Peña Nieto and renationalize Pemex. An oil industry daily publication, the NGI Hale Daily, noted this concern: “The oil and gas industry was eager to preserve ISDS protections, which shield U.S. investors, including oil and gas companies, from unfair treatment or asset seizures by host nations.” (October 2, 2018)
Trump and his trade representative therefore were greatly relieved to learn that AMLO’s trade representative, Jesus Seade, who was present in the final rounds of the negotiations as an “observer,” was unreservedly supportive of the new US-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which retained the ISDS clause with Mexico. “We applaud and support this agreement,” stated Seade. “It will provide security and stability to Mexico’s trade with its partners.”
Soon after, AMLO also spoke out in favor of this agreement, reversing the stance he had taken in 2014. “The USMCA is a good agreement,” he stated, “as it establishes favorable conditions for investment and employment, as well as stability for the national economy.”
Is this why millions of Mexican workers, peasants, and youth voted massively for AMLO on July 2? Absolutely not, according to hundreds of Mexican unionists and activists who endorsed an “Open Letter to Andrés Manuel López Obrador and the Legislators of Morena,” urging them not to sign the USMCA on the grounds that it will only deepen Mexico’s loss of sovereignty and its subordination to U.S. foreign policy dictates.
Uniting workers and their organizations from Mexico, the United States. and Canada can only be forged on the basis of the rejection of this USMCA treaty, the refusal to accept the looting by the U.S. transnational corporations, and the fight against the Wall of Shame and for workers’ rights for all.
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Mexican Deputy Gerardo Noroña Speaks Out Against the USMCA
Andrés Manuel López Obrador has stated and repeated that what will halt the flow of millions of migrants to the United States is economic development and the creation of millions of good-paying jobs in Mexico and Central America. Who could dispute this? But how then can AMLO support the new NAFTA 2.0 agreement (or USMCA), which will continue to destroy jobs and communities across Mexico and Central America, only to promote a greater exodus of people to the North?
It is worth heeding what Deputy Gerardo Fernando Noroña of the Morena party told the Mexican Congress on October 2 in relation to NAFTA and the new re-negotiated treaty between Trump, Trudeau (Canada), and Peña Nieto (Mexico). He stated, in part:
“Under NAFTA Mexico lost more then 2 million agricultural jobs. Our industrial base — along with hundreds of thousands of union-scale jobs with benefits — was decimated. The industrial zones of Tlanepantla, Atzcapotzalco, and Ciudad Sahagun, to mention only a few, are gone. All have been replaced with pass-through maquiladora plants where workers are paid close to nothing and toil in sub-human conditions.
“Now we have a new NAFTA agreement. Donald Trump tells us that the negotiators have done a good job, they have produced a ‘very good treaty.’ That alone should be enough to raise some alarm bells. It means that when our Congress sits down to review this newly re-negotiated treaty we will see that, just like the original NAFTA treaty, it is profoundly harmful to our national interests. I ask all our Deputies from Morena not to validate or otherwise support this new treaty. If not, we will have to pay the consequences dearly.