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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 7, 2018 - Volume 46 Issue 49
New NAFTA treaty is signed: footnote guts LGBT protections
Section One
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New NAFTA treaty is signed: footnote guts LGBT protections

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

On November 30, the new NAFTA trade treaty - now called the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or the USMCA - was signed by the heads of government of each country.

The text included language committing all three countries to support 'policies that protect workers against employment discrimination on the basis of sex, including with regard to pregnancy, sexual harassment, sexual orientation, gender identity.'

The language on LGBT rights was said to be the result of a firm stand by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada that the treaty include human rights protections.

While negotiations were underway, 45 Republican members of Congress warned the Trump administration in a letter that the language protecting LGBT rights violated US sovereignty and threatened not to ratify the treaty if it came to Congress with the language still in place.

Mere minutes after the signing ceremony, Rep. Doug Lamborn, the main author of the warning letter, complained in a new statement to the Trump administration that 'a trade agreement is no place for the adoption of social policy.'

The treaty language is important because treaties have equal legal status with the US Constitution as 'the supreme law of the land,' and US companies could be subject to lawsuits charging them with violating LGBT rights if the treaty were ratified with LGBT protections in place. The treaty would, in effect, establish LGBT protections as part of federal law.

But the final text of the agreement has a change in language that legal experts say will water down its reach. The new wording calls on each country to implement policies each 'considers appropriate to protect workers against employment discrimination on the basis of sex.'

A footnote on the agreement says American federal hiring policies 'are sufficient to fulfill the obligations' on labor rights, and 'thus require no additional action' by the Trump administration.

The final language may have pleased Republicans, but it was roundly criticized by Jerame Davis, executive director of Pride at Work.

'Trump is promoting this deal as a boon for American workers, but in reality it's just more of the same,' Davis wrote in an op-ed for LGBTQ Nation. 'By refusing to take a much-needed step to protect LGBTQ working people, Trump proves yet again his penchant for talking out of both sides of his mouth when it comes to the LGBTQ community.

'The purpose of our trade policy should be to create better jobs, strengthen communities, lower poverty, and build a stronger economy for all of us. Employment discrimination is a barrier [to] equality of opportunity; it weakens communities, and it increases poverty.'

Pride at Work is an LGBTQ labor organization affiliated with the AFL-CIO, and Davis promised that the group would continue to push for federal laws protecting LGBTQ rights.

Meanwhile, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka also promised that the giant labor federation 'will continue to fight to create trade deals working people deserve.'

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