NAFTA redux

CEI, of course, hates to say “We told you so!” As a shy, retiring group, it tries not to toot its own horn immodestly. But two editorials today—one in the Financial Times and the other an op-ed in the Washington Times by our friends at Cato—call out for CEI to crow over its prescient position on the negatives of including non-trade issues, such as labor and environmental provisions, in trade agreements.

The current two editorials point out some of the dangers of the “Bipartisan Trade Deal” that anti-trade and protectionist legislators forged with the embattled and battered Administration. Loads of enforceable labor and environmental provisions now will have to be included in trade agreements, raising sovereignty issues about U.S. law and distorting the potential economic benefits of trade —to U.S. citizens and to people in developing countries.

Since the NAFTA debates, CEI has pointed out the downside of including such provisions even in side letters to trade agreements — and at that time, had virtually no allies for its position:

Many potential critics of including such provisions in trade agreements, including most free market groups, were unconcerned about the NAFTA precedent. After all, they said, it wasn’t really part of the trade agreement itself. The exception was CEI, which sounded the alarm about the side agreement setting a precedent for transnational environmental harmonization. As CEI analyst James Sheehan said: “NAFTA threatens to undermine national sovereignty by internationalizing domestic environmental policies.”

Back in 1992, CEI didn’t make many friends with its principled—and correct—position on NAFTA. But who needs friends when you’re right. Right?