ICAR Submission on Poverty Impact of Corporate Influenced Trade Policy in the United States

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Professor Philip Alston, will conduct a country visit to the United States in December, and has asked interested parties to provide information on the interlinkages between poverty and realization of human rights in the context of the United States. 

ICAR prepared a submission on this topic to highlight how corporate influence of U.S. trade policies has become a key driver to poverty in the United States. 

Below is a short summary of our submission:

1. In recent years, U.S. trade policy has left many communities abandoned and destroyed. 

  • Millions of workers lost their job and struggled to provide for their family. (E.g. Ohio:  368,000 manufacturing jobs lost, North Carolina: 360,000, Michigan: 340,000, etc.)
  • In communities affected by trade, many are living under the federal poverty line. (E.g. Cleveland, Ohio: 36.2%; Stockton, California: 27.3%)
  • People in these communities also lack of access to effective public infrastructure and welfare systems, as local municipalities are forced to cut down spending on public resources.

2. The detrimental effects of trade and ensuing poverty bring forth human rights challenges to these communities.

  • Rights to an adequate standard of living: Job loss and poverty make it difficult for laid-off workers and their families to secure stable housing, clothing, and food. Children are most physically and mentally affected by poverty and malnutrition.
  • Rights to health: Depression from job loss and poverty have turned many adults to highly addictive pain-killers, leading to a wide range of health problems including deaths (e.g. opioid epidemic in Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky). Some communities witness higher mortality rates as affected workers lost their jobs and healthcare coverage.

3. The U.S. trade policies have failed to take consideration into the negative impact of trade on human rights. In fact, the U.S. trades policies are geared towards benefiting the bottom lines of corporations. Current trade adjustment policies are inadequate to provide appropriate assistance to workers and their communities.

As such, we recommend the U.S. government to:

  • Place human rights at the front and center of trade policymaking. 
  • Implement processes and rules to carry out human rights impact assessments to identify, assess, and address the effects on human rights for all future trade agreements. 
  • Develop laws and policies to address the extent of corporate influence in trade policymaking.
  • Conduct careful study of the gaps in the current Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program and develop programs to provide adequate assistance to workers and communities displaced by trade.

The submission can be viewed here