(Washington, DC, August 29) — The Committee to Support U.S. Trade Laws (CSUSTL) applauds the announcement by United States Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer that the United States and Mexico have agreed to eliminate Chapter 19 of the original NAFTA from their announced bilateral trade pact.  USTR Lighthizer is to be congratulated for his success in ensuring that U.S. laws are interpreted by U.S. courts, not bi-national panels, which have been used to weaken our trade laws since inception of the original agreement.  Under NAFTA, Chapter 19 had provided for a temporary stop-gap bi-national panel review of U.S. trade remedy actions which overrides ordinary judicial review.  CSUSTL called for the elimination of Chapter 19 in support of the U.S. government’s efforts to renegotiate NAFTA when first announced as a U.S. government priority for the NAFTA renegotiation in late 2017.


CSUSTL Chairman Roger Schagrin, of Schagrin Associates, states “U.S. manufacturers, workers, and farmers are pleased that decisions made by U.S. government agencies of U.S. trade laws will no longer be reviewed by panels composed primarily of respondent lawyers. While these lawyers may have tried to be fair, it is axiomatic that leopards can’t change their spots. Our constitution and Congressional statutes provide for judicial review of agency actions by impartial Judges appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.  We are glad the new agreement returns us to that system.”


When included in the original NAFTA, Chapter 19 had been a short-term fix pending negotiations on subsidy disciplines.  With implementation by the World Trade Organization (WTO) of a binding dispute settlement mechanism to resolve disputes over domestic trade laws the panels became redundant and obsolete.  Over the years, Chapter 19 panelists, who have no accountability in the process, have issued poor quality decisions that have consistently violated U.S. national sovereignty by weakening our domestic laws.  In a 2017 position paper, CSUSTL argued elimination of this antiquated process is both necessary and long overdue.


“The Chapter 19 dispute settlement process is an unconstitutional abrogation of the proper responsibility of U.S. judges in U.S. courts to interpret U.S. law. Foreign governments should not be allowed to give their citizens the right to determine the meaning of U.S. law,” said Andrew Kentz, partner at Picard Kentz & Rowe LLP, and member of the CSUSTL Executive Committee.  “Ambassador Lighthizer and his team at USTR are to be congratulated for taking this important step toward elimination of the Chapter 19 assault on U.S. sovereignty.”


CSUSTL cautions that the U.S./Mexico agreement is an excellent first step in addressing the Chapter 19 problem, but there is still work to be done.  If the renegotiation of NAFTA is successful in also bringing Canada into a revised trilateral trade pact, Chapter 19 must be abolished for all three nations.  Allowing Chapter 19 to exist in any form will continue to erode our national sovereignty and the effectiveness of U.S. trade laws.


The Committee to Support U.S. Trade Laws (CSUSTL) is an organization of companies, trade associations, labor unions, law firms and individuals committed to preserving and enhancing U.S. trade laws and supporting trade policies that benefit the United States-based productive economy.  CSUSTL’s members span multiple sectors, including manufacturing, technology, agriculture, mining, energy, and services.  We are dedicated to ensuring that the laws against unfair trade are not weakened through legislation or policy decisions in Washington, DC, in international negotiations, or through dispute settlement at the World Trade Organization (WTO) and elsewhere.


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