Warren targets corporate power with plan to overhaul trade policy

Warren targets corporate power with plan to overhaul trade policy
© Greg Nash

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenFederal Reserve officials' stock trading sparks ethics review Manchin keeps Washington guessing on what he wants Warren, Daines introduce bill honoring 13 killed in Kabul attack MORE (D-Mass.) on Monday released a plan to use trade policy as a tool to create stronger safeguards for labor, the environment and regions of the country harmed by globalization.

Warren’s plan would overhaul the process by which the U.S. proposes, writes, finalizes and enforces trade deals while imposing strict standards for any nation seeking or currently in a free trade deal with the U.S.


In a Medium post outlining the extensive trade proposal, Warren said her approach to trade is centered on using the United States’ immense leverage to protect domestic industries and workers.

Warren argued U.S trade policy has ceded too much power to international corporations, squandering the country’s ability to defend its manufacturers, farmers and laborers. 

“As President, I won’t hand America’s leverage to big corporations to use for their own narrow purposes,” Warren wrote. “We will engage in international trade — but on our terms and only when it benefits American families.”

Warren’s plan is among the most comprehensive proposals to replace President TrumpDonald TrumpOvernight Defense & National Security — The Pentagon's deadly mistake Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Interior returns BLM HQ to Washington France pulls ambassadors to US, Australia in protest of submarine deal MORE’s tariff-based trade policy with a holistic protectionist agenda. 

Trump has imposed more than $250 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods, foreign steel and aluminum, solar panels, and washing machines since taking office in 2017. The president has used import taxes as leverage in trade talks and inducement for companies to produce goods in the U.S., but manufacturing job gains and activity have faded throughout the year.

U.S. farmers and ranchers have also lost billions of dollars in foreign sales due to retaliatory tariffs imposed on American agricultural goods.

Warren acknowledged that while tariffs “are an important tool, they are not by themselves a long-term solution to our failed trade agenda and must be part of a broader strategy that this Administration clearly lacks.”

Warren said she instead would pursue deals and renegotiate current agreement to “force other countries to raise the bar on everything from labor and environmental standards to anti-corruption rules to access to medicine to tax enforcement.”

To do so, Warren would expand the ability of Congress and noncorporate advocates to see and shape trade deals as their being negotiated, not after they have been submitted to lawmakers for approval

Warren proposed staffing trade advisory panels with a majority of representatives from labor and environmental and consumer advocacy groups. She also called for special advisory panels for consumers, rural areas and each region of the country, “so that critical voices are at the table during negotiations.”

Under Warren’s plan, trade negotiators would be required to submit drafts of pending agreements to Congress and submit them for public comment through the same process used by federal regulators to propose and finalize rules.  

Warren's plan also raises the bar for entry into a trade deal with the U.S. and seizes more power for the federal government to enforce agreements. 

Warren proposed a list of nine standards required of any country seeking a U.S. trade deal including several international tax, climate and human rights treaties. She noted that the U.S. “shamefully” does not comply with some of these standards, but would do so under her presidency.

The plan also excludes any nation on the Treasury Department’s currency manipulation monitoring list from a potential U.S. trade deal. As of May, that list includes China, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam.

Nations in trade deals with the U.S. would also be required to support subsidies for green energy, follow U.S. food inspection standards, pay a fee on goods produced using “carbon-intensive” processes and agree to stricter anti-trust standards.