Trade Justice

CAGJ works for Trade Justice by organizing to end the current US trade model that prioritizes profits over people and the environment, and works to offer viable alternatives.

Through membership in the WA Fair Trade Coalition, CAGJ continues our historic organizing to halt so-called Free Trade Agreements which are in reality pro-corporate investment deals.

We seek to increase public understanding of trade by educating and advocating about the links between trade and our food system, food sovereignty, immigrant rights, climate justice and economic justice.

In particular, we help to articulate a vision of trade (fair trade, not “free” trade) that will raise global food, agricultural, environmental, health and labor standards, not lower them.

US-Kenya FTA

In February 2020, President Trump and Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta announced their intent to negotiate a bilateral free trade agreement, and in March, Trump formally notified Congress of its intention to move forward with negotiations. In April CAGJ submitted comments to the US Trade Representative expressing our concerns with the proposed agreement, including the timing of negotiations, as we are in the midst of global pandemic. Many points echo those made by Citizens Trade Campaign. Please also see comments submitted by Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and National Family Farm Coalition, and watch Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch video on what the US-Kenya FTA should look like, with Lori Wallach. We are collaborating with our East African partners to share information and analysis.

WTO+20: Marking 20 Year Anniversary of WTO Protests

As the origin of our organization, CAGJ marks the anniversary of the 1999 World Trade Organization protests to ensure Seattle activist history is remembered and honored. For the tenth anniversary we organized a People’s Summit at Seattle University, and this year we co-organized and participated in multiple events, including MOHAI History Café’s forum, Remembering the WTO 20 Years Later, and actions and a Town Hall forum organized by WA Fair Trade Coalition that took place on December 7th, where we co-hosted a workshop with Institute for Trade and Agriculture Policy. Our primary contribution was a day-long forum on Nov 30, 2019.

Another World is Possible! WTO+20: How a People’s Uprising Shut-Down the World Trade Organization in ‘99 & Why it Matters for Today’s Movements for Justice: This was the name of our event that took place on November 30th, twenty years to the day we shut-down the World Trade Organization in 1999! WTO protest stories get told in many ways; CAGJ partnered with UFCW 21 to highlight the critical role of direct action in shutting-down the WTO’s opening ceremonies on Nov. 30 1999, as this is too often left out of WTO narratives. We shared the history and relevance for today’s movements through speeches, photos, archival posters, theater, and workshops to support today’s struggles. Read about it here!

Twelve Reasons to Oppose Rules on Digital Commerce in the WTO: "Twelve Reasons to Oppose Rules on Digital Commerce in the WTO", by Deborah James, Coordinator, Our World is Not for Sale

NAFTA 2.0 (USMCA) is Not a Template for the Future of Trade

In December 2019 NAFTA 2.0 was approved by Congress in a bipartisan vote.  The terms are an improvement over what Trump and his corporate backers originally negotiated. Thanks to relentless work by a broad coalition of activists, rules were dropped that would have allowed corporate lawsuits against public interest regulations, and some improvements in labor rights language were made. Additionally, pharmaceutical companies were prevented from including rules that would have resulted in even stronger patents, higher prices and profits, and restricted access to biologic drugs, in particular.

However, the agreement falls short on several fronts. It has no enforcement provisions for labor rights violations.  It does not even mention climate change.  It fails to stop agri-food corporations from dumping commodities and consolidating control over our food system. It introduces new restrictions on the ability of governments to regulate corporate activity in the public interest.  Its main goal is to continue redistributing income upward.

The Trump administration is pushing for new agreements with the UK, EU and Kenya, among others. They have in their sights a further lowering of food and environmental standards, attacks on the precautionary principle (ie proof that a product does no harm), the privatization of the health industry, and promoting corporate rights of Big Tech (Google, Amazon, etc.). In these negotiations, NAFTA 2.0 is not a standard to build on.  A truly progressive pact would include binding climate standards, stronger rules to stop race-to-the-bottom outsourcing of jobs and pollution, and enforceable rules against currency cheating. It would also ensure food and product safety, protect our privacy, hold firms and banks accountable for the damage they do, and allow for local consumer and producer sovereignty.

The new NAFTA is a huge missed opportunity to reform our trade, food and farm system. Instead of worsening the current situation, trade rules to improve outcomes for family farmers and consumers would:

  1. Favor domestic markets and rural livelihoods through provisions that explicitly provide for temporary import safeguards, agricultural support programs and anti-dumping measures.
  2. Increase transparency in developing and implementing food safety and labeling rules by limiting claims of Confidential Business Information for studies, data and documents used in regulatory activities that pertain to human, plant, animal and environmental health.
  3. Enhance consumers’ information about the food they eat by insisting that Canada and Mexico drop their WTO complaints against U.S. Country of Origin labeling for meat products, thus allowing Congress to reestablish this popular program.
  4. Ensure that governments are free to develop and implement public protection standards without imposing additional limitations on programs considered trade distorting, and that any programs on regulatory cooperation or equivalence are voluntary and not enforceable through dispute settlement.
  5. Require that any equivalency agreements for food safety and plant and animal health include rigorous inspection and audits of facilities in the export supply chain.
  6. Explicitly permit governments to reject imports of unauthorized products of agricultural biotechnology.

For more detailed analysis and updates on NAFTA and agriculture, visit

What Do We Want? People's Vision for Fair & Just Trade

CAGJ drafted "A Vision for Fair and Just Trade Policy Platform" with WA Fair Trade Coalition (WFTC). The vision paper expresses what good trade policy would look like. The trade justice community is often characterized as saying no to trade agreements. The Coalition wanted to produce a set of positive principles for trade advocacy on behalf of people and the planet. In drafting a people’s vision for fair and just trade policy, the Washington Fair Trade Coalition felt it was important to hear directly from the people in Washington State most affected by our trade policies. WFTC convened a broad base of our membership to discuss shared values and each group’s specific concerns.

Good trade policy supports Food Sovereignty and Safe, Healthy and Accessible Food:

  • Consumers can trust they have safe and healthy food
  • People decide what information about their food is publicly available
  • Workers, producers, and agricultural families have dignity and economic security
  • Responsible producers are protected in the global economy
  • Communities can build and protect local food systems

Get Involved

Contact CAGJ, and stay informed.  Be in touch with policy-makers, write letters to the editor, use social media, speak up about trade issues at meetings or with friends, and show up for picket lines or rallies.

Resources on the link between access to food and trade justice

CAGJ Trade Justice Accomplishments

Highlights of CAGJ accomplishments making the links between trade policies and global food systems:

  • In 2019 we coordinated a celebration marking the 20th anniversary of the 1999 WTO protests with a day-long Teach-in and street action.
  • In 2017 CAGJ participated in a variety of actions, including delivering posters and petitions to legislators and joining anti-TPP protests as part of the movement to defeat the TPP. We kept our membership informed on the substance of the deal, on administration claims and machinations, and on how to build broad awareness and opposition.
  • CAGJ interns joined a rally against the TPP in Tacoma, and delivered a poster to Rep. Kilmer expressing support for food sovereignty.
  • We worked closely with the Washington Fair Trade Coalition to write a Fair Trade vision paper to help guide activists about trade issues. We focused in particular on food justice, but participated in formulating a vision on all issues.
  • We co-drafted a petition with 350 Seattle and WFTC to the WA congressional delegation focused on the TPP’s impact on food systems, and we reached our goal of 500 signers! We delivered the petition to all our Congressional representatives.
  • We helped to defeat the TPP: The Trans-Pacific Partnership was the largest “free-trade” agreement negotiated since the WTO (read more here). It included 12 countries, encompassing nearly 40% of the global economy. The deal would have further protected corporate investment overseas, rolled back food safety regulations, weakened environmental protection, inflated medicine prices, and threatened internet freedom. Negotiated behind closed doors with the aid of hundreds of corporate lobbyists, the TPP epitomized the type of back-room deal making that favors corporate elites over working families. This is the very thing that Americans and so many others have been revolting against in recent years.

Let us be clear what happened here. Trump pulled the U.S. out, but the TPP was already on life support because of our efforts. Even with a US President, Congressional leaders and corporate lobbyists united against us, progressives were able to defeat their agenda by uniting together across issue areas and across borders!