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  • Eyes on Trade is a blog by the staff of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch (GTW) division. GTW aims to promote democracy by challenging corporate globalization, arguing that the current globalization model is neither a random inevitability nor "free trade." Eyes on Trade is a space for interested parties to share information about globalization and trade issues, and in particular for us to share our watchdogging insights with you! GTW director Lori Wallach's initial post explains it all.

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May 31, 2007

Mountain States Cut Off Fast-Trackers at the (Legislative) Pass

Right on the bootstraps of a Montana State Senate resolution letting Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) know that Fast Track's not the Montana way, the Nevada State Assembly and Senate recently passed a joint resolution (PDF) signalling to their congressional delegation they're not so thrilled with Fast Track either:

...the Nevada Legislature hereby urges Congress toreevaluate the "fast track" approval of international trade agreements, and to consider replacing that authority with a more democratic, inclusive and deliberative mechanism which takes into consideration the concerns of state legislatures and authorizes their participation in the international trade agreement process.

It's worth mentioning that the State Senate in Nevada is Republican-controlled. The desire for a democratic and accountable process in the negotiation of our trade policy is certainly a bipartisan concern -- especially when it's clear that Fast-Tracked international trade agreements undermine state level democracy and sovereignty (PDF). Senate Majority Leader Reid and Ways and Means committee members Reps. Shelley Berkley (D) and Jon Porter (R) will have a role to play in deciding the direction of our U.S. trade policy. Let's hope they're taking notes.

Fred Thompson: Another GOP 100% Anti-Fair Trader

Just when it was beginning to look like the Democrats had a more anti-fair trade candidate field than the Republicans, old Arthur Branch (aka Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.)) seems poised to enter the field of top GOP presidential contenders.

200pxarthur_2 As we are wont to do over here at Eyes on Trade, we view the candidates through the prism of how much they have assaulted or defended the environment and working people through trade policy. In this regard, Thompson has an 100% assault record, having voted the anti-fair trade position on Fast Track (twice), NAFTA for Africa (twice), and China PNTR.

His 100% anti-fair trade vote record puts him second only to Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), who voted the anti-fair trade position on 9/9 votes. This is for the entire presidential field, both Democratic and Republican.

May 30, 2007

Skunks at the garden party

The National Journal's weekly mag had some great coverage of the Deathstar Deal, none of which is linkable, unfortunately. But here are some high and lowlights. NJ reports that the May 10 announcement appeared to be a "triumphal moment"...

But some skunks appeared at [the] garden party -- and Democratic ones at that. In a highly unusual scene, several Democratic members stood behind the cameras on the opposite side of the room and glared angrily. These members, part of a key faction within the House Democratic Caucus that since the 1980s has consistently fought trade-opening initiatives as a sellout of the nation's jobs and economic future, made clear that they opposed [senior Dems'] bipartisan initiative without saying a word. And since then, the opposition has intensified and spread among Democratic lawmakers.

"It was quite disappointing to see that our leadership talked to the White House and Republican leadership before they talked to the Democratic Caucus," Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, who strategically positioned herself in [senior Dems'] line of sight at the May 10 event, said in a later interview. "Things happened by sleight of hand. When that happens in this place, it means that the situation is rigged.... The press conference was handled secretly. It was a closed event."

Bruce Stokes: Deathstar only a "symbolic victory"

Bruce Stokes gives his take on the deal in his latest National Journal column (it's unclear who is he is talking about with the capital L Left, since I know of no progressive group that has endorsed the deal, but his point about the merits is worth reading):

Conservatives who complain that the deal was a victory for organized labor that will open the floodgates to protectionism have it all wrong. The deal demonstrates the unions' weakness, not their strength. The Left expended enormous political capital to achieve what is largely a symbolic victory.

Under the Hill-White House deal, a foreign government that refuses to allow its workers to organize, to bargain collectively, and to maintain other minimum labor standards will make itself vulnerable to the reimposition of tariffs. Labor has long sought to embed this fundamental principle in trade law. But, at best, this achievement will empower Peruvian or Panamanian workers to begin a generation-long struggle to improve their wages and working conditions.

And it is unlikely that if a country violates the labor-rights provisions it will be subject to any quick penalties. The process for the reimposition of tariffs to enforce labor rights, under this deal, is modeled on similar language in the free-trade agreement with Jordan. But that provision has never been tested. And, as some on the left have already pointed out, it is unlikely that the anti-union Bush administration will agree to bring a case against the abuse of labor.

Zoellick: Unforgettable in Every Way

We've written in recent days about how the Bush administration made very clear in its early days in office that it had no plan on enforcing labor rights provisions in the "breakthrough" Jordan FTA. Well, the dude that done it (i.e. that wrote the letter saying this would be policy) is none other than Bush's latest pick to head the World Bank - Bobby Moustache Zoellick. While development gurus often lamented that Paul Wolfowitz had no experience with economic policy, I'm worried that Moustache has TOO MUCH of the WRONG experience, as former Bush adminstration U.S. Trade Representative who pushed Fast Track and NAFTA expansions to Chile, Morocco, Singapore, and Australia.

Zoellickpumpkin The Z Man, who inadvertently helped Global Trade Watch win the annual Public Citizen pumpkin carving contest a few years ago (photo adjacent), has a long history of being on the wrong side of the fair trade debate. Here are just a few of his choicest quotes:

$ Quotations from Chairman Zoellick $

Corporations of the World Unite! You Have Nothing to Lose but Your Shame!

Personal Attacks on Critics of Fast Track

"Speaking to a business group in Chicago, Zoellick described lawmakers and lobbyists who oppose a [trade promotion authority] bill sponsored by House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas (R-CA) as 'xenophobes and isolationists.'"

- Inside U.S. Trade, Oct. 26, 2001

Congresspeople Against Fast Track Are Only in it for the Money

"Let’s be frank: for a lot of members, even the ones that know that trade is the right thing to do, they’re being held back for other, rather narrow-interest reasons, some of them related to the understandable politics of where they get their money from."

- Q&A after Zoellick speech at the Institute for International Economics, Bureau of National Affairs, Sept. 25, 2001

Continue reading "Zoellick: Unforgettable in Every Way" »

May 28, 2007

Pelosi favors minority-of-majority approach to trade, say reports

Inside U.S. Trade is reporting that Speaker Pelosi is cool to suggestions that trade policy be passed only with a majority of the majority Dems supporting, such as a resolution on Fast Track suggested by Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) to that effect. At a Friday press briefing, she said:

“I don’t think that that’s going to be the case,” she said in a press conference with the other members of the leadership when asked about the idea. “I would encourage my colleagues not to be proposing resolutions that say the majority of the majority does this or that.” Pelosi said she plans to discuss issues in the Democratic Caucus and jointly reach a position on how to proceed.

“I have to take into consideration something broader than the majority of the majority of the Democratic Caucus” when deciding what legislation to advance, she said.

Tom Hayden: Pelosi for New Deal or "Freshened" NAFTA?

Tom Hayden makes the call for a New Deal on trade in his SF Chronicle op-ed:

On May 10 Pelosi, White House officials and pro-corporate Democrats announced a surprise "bipartisan" agreement on trade, without revealing any details.

As the package is rushed to a vote, it appears to be a "freshened" version of NAFTA (the phrase is that of Mickey Kantor, trade czar under President Bill Clinton). This would fall far short of what the voters expected and most Democratic elected officials promised last fall. Pelosi faces strong opposition from most members of her caucus, labor leaders and environmental activists...

Then comes the ultimate question of whether the Democrats will continue their support of NAFTA-style trade agreements, or else begin to construct a kind of global New Deal as an alternative. Under NAFTA, the twinned issues of jobs and immigration intensified, with immigration from Mexico increasing 60 percent as 1.3 million campesinos  lost their jobs in a flood of cheap American corn.

A revived New Deal would have elected governments, rather than unelected corporations and banks, set the rules for fairness in the global market. The goals would be controls on financial speculation, an enforceable living wage, consumer access to affordable medicines, and the expansion of the Kyoto agreement into a full assault on global warming's devastating impact on poorer countries.

Pennsylvania Sends a Message to Congress

In the wake of the Deathstar deal and the imminent expiration of Fast Track on June 30th, the Pennsylvania House overwhelmingly passed a resolution (166-30) calling on Congress to reject Fast Track and replace it with an open and democratic system that includes states in the process. The resolution itself had over 100 co-sponsors!

In a press release (PDF) from the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, President William George explains:

"Approval of this resolution sends a strong message to Pennsylvania's Congressional Delegation to reject the extension of Fast Track and replace it with a genuine democratic model which will benefit the working families of Pennsylvania."

That delegation includes influential members of the House Ways and Means committee, Reps. Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.) and Phil English (R-Pa.). Pennsylvania has now become the ninth state to send the message to Congress that Fast Track has got to go.

May 27, 2007

New England States Take Action

Following the activity in Hawai’i two weeks ago, states on the other end of the country are continuing to take the lead on reforming our failed trade policy. The Vermont House recently passed HR 26 (PDF), urging Congress not to extend Fast Track and to establish a stronger role for states in the trade negotiating process. This makes it the sixth state to do so, in addition to the Hermiston, Oregon city council and California Democratic Party adopting resolutions as well.

Up in Maine, the legislature recently passed LD 1678 by an overwhelming bipartisan majority, a bill which fund's Maine's participation in a consortium of state and local governments working together to investigate working conditions at the factories that produce footwear, textiles and apparel for the consortium's members. The Sweatfree Consortium was launched by Governor Baldacci of Maine and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom over a year ago. Now Maine, which passed the nation's first sweatfree purchasing policy, has also become the first state to commit to funding for the consortium.

You can find out more about this topic at http://www.sweatfree.org/sweatfreeconsortium.

May 26, 2007

Congress Helping States Keep Anti-Genocide Laws

Regardless of whether or not you agree that divestment campaigns against Iran is a good idea, chalk up H.R. 2347 as a solid precedent for state democracy and policy-space to promote fair trade. The bill, which passed in the House Finance Committee this week, would allow states to pass legislation requiring the divestment of state dollars from companies that invest in Iran. A similar bill, H.R. 180, focuses on Sudan and is also moving through the House. From Inside U.S. Trade (sorry, not linkable):

Sherman (sponsor of the bill) says: if H.R. 2347 passed Congress and the administration signed it into law, “it would be very hard, I think, for the courts to say that a state doing something authorized by the elected branches of the federal government, in furtherance of its policy and at its request, is somehow at odds with American policy.”

You may recall the successful anti-apartheid divestment campaign aimed at South Africa in the 1980s. A similar effort was launched in the 1990s by states and cities against the oppressive Burmese military regime, and in recent years states have again been passing laws to oppose genocide in Sudan.

(Not so) shockingly, these important state efforts have come under fire by corporate interests seeking to dismantle any perceived barriers that could limit their one objective - making higher profits. The National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC) took Massachusetts and Illinois to court to get those laws repealed, while internationally the EU and Japan challenged Massachusetts' Burma law under the WTO's procurement agreement. State lawmakers are used to being preempted by the federal government but they were flummoxed when they found out that the WTO also gets to tell states what they can or can't do with their taxpayer dollars. Nice to know Congress is looking to side with states on this one. 

May 25, 2007

Food for thought on trade, inequality

People in Philly cannot get groceries, because the grocery stores are too far away. In fact, whole swaths of the city consist of dilapidated buildings where people seem to have not a lot going on. Is this a story about lazy people, or is there more to it? Kudos to the Times for making the unmissed connection that points right back to our trade policies:

Depopulation and the loss of industrial jobs in recent decades have taken an especially harsh toll in this neighborhood. They left row houses abandoned or in disrepair, and vacant lots strewn with trash, broken whiskey pints and hypodermic needles. Progress Plaza, which was founded with great hopes in the 1960s by an association of black residents, fell on hard times. Even mom-and-pop stores are rare.

If there was any doubt that inequality is not the outcome of some sort of flat world magic, but is in fact a direct outcome of public and private CHOICES and the balance of social power, The Times had a piece on the growing gap between corporate honcho numero uno and corporate honcho numero dos that shows just how acute the income distribution crisis is getting. Eduardo Porter points out that it's pretty difficult to believe that this inequity could be the benign result of some sort of economic force of nature, a point which should be pretty obvious to anyone that's ever tried to ask for a raise and have your boss DECIDE to not give you one. Yesterday, high tech workers joined the fair trade fight; tomorrow, Rupert Murdoch's deputy?

Finally, you gotta love the Chinese government for telling it like it is. This from USA Today:

More than two months after the USA began a massive pet-food recall, since linked to contaminated ingredients imported from China, business and government officials in China are investigating what went wrong and promising improvement in a country where mass poisonings from tainted foods have been common. But they also say they're not the only ones who need to take more responsibility.

"Officials like me in the Chinese government can supervise the producers here, but U.S. companies doing business with Chinese companies must also be very clear about the standards they need, and don't just look for a cheap price," says Yuan Changxiang, a deputy director in the ministry responsible for inspecting imports and exports.

Jin Zemin, general manager of Shanghai Kaijin Bio-Tech, which specializes in wheat gluten, agrees. U.S. importers "want cheaper prices, but that can come at a cost," he says. "You should know exactly where the products you buy are coming from. Don't just look at the price."

Doggett speaks out, committees looking tight, more secrecy

Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), a long-time environmental champion on the Ways and Means Committee, said he was "disappointed" with the Deathstar Deal's provisions on multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs). According to Inside U.S. Trade:

Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) said this week in an interview with Inside U.S. Trade that he was disappointed that the FTA template limits the improved environmental provisions to only seven MEAs, pointing out that there were no such limitations when the principles for future trade agreements were first unveiled by Democrats last March. Doggett also said he was disappointed that the provisions on logging were limited to Peru and did not extend to other FTAs.

Inside U.S. Trade also reports that the pending FTAs may have a hard time even in their committees of jurisdiction - the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means Committees:

U.S. industry supporters of the bilateral free trade agreement with Peru have privately expressed fears that a vote in the trade committees could be tighter than expected when the deal comes up, according to informed sources. In the House Ways and Means Committee, they fear they could lose three or four Republican members ... In the Finance Committee, some supporters are worried that Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Kent Conrad (D-ND) may vote against the Peru FTA, these sources said. ... For example, Conrad has not taken a position on the Peru FTA but has had several tough exchanges with the administration on trade issues, including the draft implementing bill on Peru, a Senate aide said.

Musicman Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) of Senate Finance is also apparently concerned that the extreme provisions requiring the government to whip pirate CD vendors with the pelts of baby seals may not be quite as extreme as in CAFTA. (Or some such thing. I wouldn't understand, it's a protectionist thing.) And finally, now even the timeline of the final legal text of the deal is being kept secret:

One lobbyist said that some House members believe the details of that deal will not be worked out before August recess, which would mean the Peru FTA could not be considered before then, as business had hoped. Both Rangel and Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee Chairman Sander Levin (D-MI) have been avoiding any concrete timeline on when the work would be done.

May 24, 2007

On the negotiating table

Anyone who thinks the FTA with Colombia needs to be brought to the negotiating table needs to take a closer look at what happens on their negotiating tables.

Check out this Associated Press story, "Colombia's Congress seeks peace observer's removal for ignoring paramilitary orgies." It pretty much speaks for itself.

Globalization (finally) Understood

Today, the Wall Street Journal joined the ranks of Ralph Gomory and Alan Blinder with the front page story, "Globalization's Gains Come with a Price," (subscription site) admitting (possibly for the very first time) the high costs of globalization to people in the United States and around the world:

Many developing nations seem to be following in the footsteps of the U.S., where the income gap has grown sharply since the early 1970s. A 2006 study of Latin America, a region long marked by profound gaps between rich and poor, by World Bank economists Guillermo Perry and Marcelo Olarreaga found that the income divide deepened after economic liberalization in nine of the 12 countries examined.

Peace or FTA?

Presidents, Members of Congress and the Pundit Class that are unable intellectually or unwilling politically to confront the real inequality-enhancing impact of NAFTA-style trade deals have often said that "we must do NAFTA-style trade deals because we have to reward our friends and allies abroad," or that, "Didn't some German dude say trade causes peace and democracy, man?"

There's a growing consensus that this line of argument is bunk. Barry Lynn at New America Foundation wrote an excellent book in 2005 that showed how there is no link between democratization and increased trade flows, with China being Example Numero Uno. And we wrote a short brief with the Washington Office on Latin America and others showing that, if anything, NAFTA-style trade deals INCREASE instability in sensitive regions.

These general arguments have been given confirmation by two events coming out of Colombia in the last few days. First, Colombia's second largest rebel group announced that it would agree to a cease fire if only the government would not sign and implement the FTA. According to Reuters,

A cease-fire is the major stumbling block in the peace talks, which began 17 months ago in Havana in a bid to end the Cuban-inspired guerrilla insurgency begun in 1964 by radical students and Catholic priests.

The 5,000-strong ELN said it was ready to stop its armed attacks, kidnappings and sabotage activities if the Colombian government suspended what it called unpopular measures such as free trade with the United States.

"It is necessary to freeze the approval of the FTA because it hurts the sovereignty and future of our nation, and the interests of a majority of Colombians," the ELN said in a statement issued in Havana, referring to the trade agreement.

Second exhibit are the ever-more-frequent statements by Colombia's leading politicians that the Colombian government will pull out of the U.S. government-led War on Drugs if Congress rejects the FTA. While this is ostensibly a threat meant to cow members of Congress, I can't think of a better reason to reject the FTA. Plan Colombia and the U.S. War on Drugs have increased suffering in Colombia, and been ineffectual at reducing the supply of drugs.

So, much to the contrary of the notion that an FTA is needed to guarantee peace and stability, it seems that rejection of the FTA would be much more likely to guarantee those goals.

May 23, 2007

Death Star Deal: what about agriculture?

Dennis Olson and Alexandra Spieldoch of the Institute for Agricultural Policy weigh in (PDF) on the "deal" —

Nowhere addressed in the trade deal is how to address the false promise consistent in free trade agreements that all farmers will find prosperity by increasing their export market shares. Of course farmers don't export, multinational corporations do. Instead of leading toward prosperity for farmers, free trade has driven an export-led corporate model of agriculture that has substantially increased the dumping of agricultural commodities onto world markets at below the cost of production. Small-scale farmers, who make up as high as 70 percent of the population in some of the poorest countries in the world, cannot compete with these below-cost imports. In many cases, these farmers can no longer support themselves on their land, and are forced to migrate to other areas such as the United States in search of a better life.

In addition to agricultural issues, they also touch on investment rules, IPR, GMOs and other issues in this brief commentary.

Amy Goodman: The Masses Will Rise Up Against the Deathstar

Amy Goodman has written a column on the Deathstar Deal. In it, she writes:

If the Washington power brokers are betting on Americans not understanding or caring about arcane trade policy, they should recall the Battle of Seattle. In late 1999, when the World Trade Organization tried to meet in Seattle to impose global corporate trade policies, they were met by tens of thousands of protesters, from Teamsters to environmentalists, health-care workers to students to farmworkers. The meetings were shut down. Compound this potential backlash with the millions of hardworking immigrants now staring down the barrel of another bipartisan agreement. These are the people who took to the streets in the millions last year.

When the rules are rigged to allow money to move freely across borders, then people will follow. Falling wages south of the border, caused by "free trade," drive people north — no matter how high the wall or how many detention facilities are built to contain them. Make no mistake about it — trade and immigration are linked.

An essay from me to you...

... can be found over at the Alternet site. It gives a run-down of the Deathstar Deal, and was written by Lori Wallach and myself.

May 22, 2007

Inside the Deathstar

Reuters is reporting on several members' comments following a Democratic Caucus meeting today on trade. According to this report:

  • A member who had worked on the deal said "Democrats got everything they asked for from the Bush administration." This is the first public confirmation of the fact that the few Democrats that were in on the deal must not have asked for fixes on the over 80 percent of fair trade demands that were not addressed by the Deathstar Deal's terms.
  • "The deal also would apply to pacts with Colombia and South Korea," reports Reuters.
  • One member in on the deal said there will be "a hell of a lot more" Democrats supporting NAFTA expansion agreements after the Deathstar Deal than before. Meanwhile, Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), who has rejected the Deathstar Deal, said, "I would say that at least half (of the House Democrats), if not more, share my view."
  • A senior Democrat in on the deal also "defended the secretive negotiating process as necessary," while Kaptur urged Speaker "Pelosi to establish a special House working group on trade so that policy is not decided completely within the confines" of the Ways and Means Committee.

Kaptur: deal is "irresponsible"

Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio)'s statement on the "deal" can be found after the jump. Here's the takeaway:

It is irresponsible to continue to reword the same agreements and expect that our constituents are naive enough to accept it as real change.

Continue reading "Kaptur: deal is "irresponsible"" »

Rep. Hare leads a chorus of voices against the "deal"

After the jump, a slew of Congresspeople offer a range of reasons why the "deal" is no deal. For instance, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) says,

I fear there are remnants of the failed FTA-WTO trade model in the May 10 agreement which will only lead to further hemorrhaging of U.S. jobs and the erosion of American manufacturing and service industries.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) does a particularly thorough job of bullet-pointing any number of NAFTA-model provisions that the "deal" completely fails to address. Read more after the break.

Continue reading "Rep. Hare leads a chorus of voices against the "deal"" »

Ways and Means on CNN on "Deal"

An interview on the "deal" on CNN from last night, after the jump:

Continue reading "Ways and Means on CNN on "Deal"" »

Children of Men Meets Tokenism in Colombia

Today's Times had a sobering account from Simon Romero about the port city of Buenaventura in Colombia. This city has been ravaged by massive refugee inflows from the country's civil war, which has spilled over into the drug trafficking industry, which in turn preys on and operates out of this slum city of shacks built on stilts. Despite massive inflows of U.S. aid, Colombia's human rights and labor situation has only deteriorated over the years, especially for Afro Colombians - whose community is the focus of this piece. The picture, which looks like something taken out of the future-horror flick Children of Men, explains it all.

And not surprisingly, neo-liberal economics is at the root of a lot of Buenaventura's problems:

Some economists hold up Buenaventura as an example of the risks of exposing certain areas of developing economies to market forces. María del Pilar Castillo, an economist at Valle University in Cali, said many residents lost economic security when the city’s port was privatized more than a decade ago, cutting its work force and reducing benefits.

With taxes on the imports flowing through Buenaventura’s port largely going directly to the central government, the city reaps few benefits from international trade, even as Colombia’s economy grows more than 6 percent a year. So the poor in Buenaventura, with an unemployment rate of about 28 percent, resort to the drug trade.

“There is no other viable industry here, so there are no other viable jobs,” said Ana María Mercedes Cano, director of Buenaventura’s Chamber of Commerce. “So we live in a situation with violence all around us.”

This sounds like a lot of urban situations in the United States, where black men are more likely to be in prison than to have a union manufacturing job. It also sounds a lot like Peru, where the sell-off of the privatized ports to Dubai Ports World last year sparked massive protests, for exactly the same reasons as in Buenaventura - without public control, there's no guaranteeing that the local community will benefit.

Indeed, for the average family anywhere in the world who aren't comprised of political philosophers, about the only reason to favor one set of economic policies over another is if the one is better at distributing the economic pie. The record is in: the NAFTA-WTO model is awful at redistributing income, while countries that have pursued alternative development strategies have had much greater success.

Oh, and what has been the development and anti-discrimination strategy of the beloved President Uribe - who has pushing for a U.S.-Colombia FTA despite that country's record as the most dangerous in the world for trade unionists - in the face of Buenaventura's massive problems? He appointed an Afro-Colombian into his cabinet.

May 21, 2007

Feingold Weighs In on the Hen House Deal

From Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.)'s statement entered into the Congressional Record last Thursday:

Mr. FEINGOLD. Mr. President, last week, amid great fanfare, several Members of the House and Senate announced they had reached an agreement with the administration on language that facilitates the implementation of two trade agreements, and paves the way for the possible consideration of additional trade agreements as well as the extension of so-called fast-track trade agreement implementing authority.

No sooner had the announcement been made than questions were raised about just what the agreement was. A comparison of the representations made by the parties to the agreement revealed several potentially contradictory interpretations of the deal. And when details of the agreement were sought, it was discovered that there really weren't any, that what the parties had agreed to was a set of principles. We now understand that the actual details of the agreement may not be fully spelled out until legislation implementing the trade agreements is presented to Congress for approval. Until then, everyone is free to spin this agreement as they wish.

Given the parties that were involved, hearing the announcement was a bit like hearing that the foxes and wolves had reached a deal on guarding the hen house. For the most part, the people who were negotiating this agreement have a nearly unbroken record of supporting the deeply flawed trade policies of the past decade and more. From the North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA, to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, GATT, which created the World Trade Organization, to granting China permanent Most Favored Nation status, to the more recent agreements like the Central America Free Trade Agreement, the actors in this deal have all been singing from the same hymn book. While I don't question the good intentions of those who were involved, no one should have expected last week's announcement to produce significant changes to that hymn book.

Continue reading "Feingold Weighs In on the Hen House Deal" »

Massa on "deal"

Eric Massa, candidate for congress in New York will be again challenging Randy Kuhl, a longtime Republican incumbent.

Massa knows that without Democrats charting an entirely new course on trade – fulfilling the 37 freshmen members’ promises to deliver on this issue - his chances in 2008 are slim, as the economic line between the parties blurs much like after NAFTA.

Massa writes on MyDD and DailyKos,

As many of you may have already heard, there is an effort to bring Peru and Panama into a "free" trade agreement with the United States. The specific language of these deals has yet to be released, so I will reserve my judgment on this specific case until it is available, however I firmly believe we need to start putting the fire out rather than adding more logs onto it. As Americans, we should demand open trade deals which ensure fair labor and environmental standards across the board, and if we can't enforce them then we shouldn't sign on the dotted line. We need to strengthen American Manufacturing, not weaken it.

Pay day, not payback

Clinton administration trade and economics official Gene Sperling had a curious op-ed today. Sirota wrote a little context on Gene's piece. But I was especially struck by how Gene admitted that critics of the Deathstar Deal have a point when they say it will do nothing to raise U.S. living standards, that other policies are needed. This is similar to what Paul Krugman said in his piece on the soft bigotry of the deal last week.

Juxtaposed with this admission however is Gene's lede, falsely suggesting that fair trade groups are claiming that "following the Democratic sweep of Congress last year, it's time for partisanship and payback."

Besides the basic point that democracy doesn't work unless the voters are having their will represented by the officials that they elect (calling this a payback seems pretty cynical), Gene seems to be suggesting that fighting for fair trade policies is some sort of special interest fight.

Peanut_butter A special interest payback scenario would be if my Grandma, who makes delicious delicious homemade peanut butter, demanded some sort of tax break on peanut grinders but only for old ladies that live in her home of Blytheville, Arkansas.

Or, in a more relevant example for the Peru FTA, like pharmaceutical giants demanding that governments protect their monopoly patents for excessive periods of time, or Citibank benefiting from a provision in the FTA that gives it rights to sue the Peruvian government if the people in Peru reverse their failed social security privatization.

But there is no prominent labor rights or fair trade group that has taken a special interest approach to their demands on trade deals. Fair trade groups have suggested that we go beyond the failed Jordan FTA model to talk about trade policies that actually raise living standards both here and abroad. This is a very "general interest" or "public interest" approach, not a special interest approach. In fact, it's what democracy looks like.

May 19, 2007

"I'd ignore a lot of people"

Reuters has a fascinating report:

A senior Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday defended a trade deal reached last week with the Bush administration, in response to criticism from some party members. "I think there's a lot of misunderstanding with the agreement," House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel, a New York Democrat, told PBS' Nightly Business Report. "I cannot see how anybody would be upset in the Democratic Party, except for one thing: they were not included when we had the press conference."...

In the interview, Rangel offered no apology for the deal that was struck and said the only thing he would do differently was to reach it "much faster. I'd ignore a lot of people that really was just wasting my time, and didn't intend to support it all."

For those of who are keeping track, here is the list of fixes (PDF) that fair trade groups demanded many months ago in order to not oppose the Peru and Panama FTAs. Here are the ways they fall short. And here are just a few of the on-the-record alternative policies that fair trade groups said would constitute a new direction on globalization they could support.

Stinky fruit and real internationalism

Ever smelt a durian fruit? It's the world's most pungent fruit. That's what came to mind reading today's Times:

Leon E. Panetta, a former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, said he had been concerned, once the Democrats took control of Congress, that “an awful lot of blood in the water” would prevent the parties from coming to terms on “low-hanging fruit” like immigration and trade....

The change in November has made it easier for Mr. Bush to pursue his trade agenda and his long-cherished goal of immigration overhaul. In the trade deal, the administration’s unlikely partner was Representative Charles B. Rangel, the tough-talking Democrat from Harlem. The White House acceded to his demands for child labor and environmental protections in several pending trade pacts

It's not clear to me how a Deathstar Deal that the entire Democratic base opposes and that includes labor provisions that business groups themselves say are non-binding is anything worth celebrating, and it seems downright off to characterize these as "low-hanging fruit." Sen. Byron Dorgan's (D-N.D.) hime in:

after six years of being virtually ignored by the administration, many Democrats remain wary. Senator Byron L. Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota, complained on Friday that the Bush White House had “never been very interested in anything except the way they wanted to do business.” Mr. Dorgan said he was not impressed with the fact, given the change of party power, that they are talking. “That gives credit for low expectations,” he  said.

In related news, The Times reports on forward motion in the world of international solidarity - and its coming from the Teamsters on their first visit to China, while business does it's best/worst to undermine people everywhere:

For years, American unions refused to have any dealings with China’s government-controlled union because it is not independent.

But now, American union leaders say that encouraging union leaders here may actually raise standards in China and around the world, thereby making American jobs more competitive.

“I think a dialogue with them is very constructive,” Mr. Hoffa said. “You can’t ignore a union that claims to have 100 million workers.”...

The visit comes as  China’s only official union is pressing multinational corporations like Wal-Mart and McDonald’s to allow unions in their Chinese factories and stores.

Though long regarded as friendly toward management, the government-controlled union is starting to flex its muscle and is also helping to draft a new labor law that some American corporations are opposing on the grounds that it is unfair to corporations operating here and gives too much power to workers.

May 18, 2007

Moyers on Deal Tonight!

From Moyers' people:

This week's closed door negotiations between the Democrats and the Bush administration have sparked a keen interest in a new free trade deal.  Tomorrow on Bill Moyers Journal (check local listings at www.pbs.org/moyers), we ask: Is the new leadership in Congress failing on its promises to workers and cutting a raw deal?  And we know your members will want to tune in.

Following a Bill Moyers essay on the trade deal, Moyers speaks with John R. MacArthur, who offers insight on what this deal means for American workers and the future of unions in America.  Says MacArthur, "It's a union killing movement in the United States.  You cannot form a union in the United States anymore without risking your plant being closed, sent overseas, or other kinds of intimidation."

MacArthur is the author of "The Selling of 'Free Trade': NAFTA, Washington and the Subversion of American Democracy" and he is also president and publisher of Harper's Magazine,

After the broadcast, we will post the essay and interview in their entirety at www.pbs.org/moyers, as well as make it available on iTunes free of charge.

City Council in Oregon tells Congress: Trade model isn't working

Most people probably couldn't tell you Hermiston is in Oregon, but its plant-closing story is so ubiquitous Hermiston could be your average community in any state.  This week, the Hermiston City Council unanimously passed a resolution to send a message to Congress that Fast-Tracked trade deals don't help Oregon workers nor do they respect the rights of state and local governments. Denice Martin at the Oregon Fair Trade Campaign points out (pdf):

Hermiston’s voice on this matter is particularly important because both Oregon Senators Gordon Smith and Ron Wyden sit on the Senate Finance Committee that considers trade policy. Hopefully, Senators Smith and Wyden will get the message that Fast Track-approved trade deals have been causing job loss in all parts of the state and must be opposed.

Not to hammer this point over anyone's head but economists like Alan Blinder have predicted tens of millions of service-sector jobs will continue to be highly vulnerable to offshoring if we continue with business as usual.

State legislators have also been passing resolutions against more Fast Track and calling on Congress to create a new trade negotiating process that's more democratic and inclusive. Somehow, I don't think this latest secret Deathstar Deal is what they had in mind.

Sutton: The American People are counting on this new Congress

Rep. Betty Sutton (D-Ohio) reminds Congress:

The American people are counting on this new Congress to finally address the devastation of our failed trade policies and soaring trade deficit by developing a new trade model that will no longer leave American businesses and workers at a disadvantage. They are counting on us to enact a trade model that will not reward companies who move overseas or encourage them to outsource jobs and our future. They are counting on us to develop a trade model that will put an enforceable end to illegal subsidies and currency manipulation. They are counting on us to develop a trade model that will provide incentives to help our businesses and workers and our communities thrive. They are counting on us to develop a trade model that requires reciprocity of market access and ensures greater safety of products produced elsewhere and consumed here.

Read the full statement after the jump.

Continue reading "Sutton: The American People are counting on this new Congress" »

Bush in charge of coming up with legal language for Sr. Dems, which still doesn't exist

According to Inside U.S. Trade, no one - not even the Democrats that announced the deal - have seen the legal language, because it doesn't yet exist:

Hare and Rep. Betty Sutton (D-OH) said after the caucus meeting ... “We are still trying to figure out what the deal is.”

However, Levin said that all Democratic members have a copy of the “basic ingredients” of the deal, and that little additional information could be provided until the exact legal language of the deal has been worked out. USTR is now drafting that legal language.

Levin said he did not know how long it would take to work out that language. “There is a lot to be done before that happens,” he added. Levin also said a lot of work remains to be done on the FTAs before it is possible to set a timetable for congressional consideration.

May 17, 2007

Senate Democrats: "nothing new is on the table except a $5 Rolex"?

Sens. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) sent out some sharply worded words on the "deal."

According to a Congress Now story:

Dorgan said he'll push for three benchmarks to measure the success of the trade agreements:Net creation of jobs, Net improvement of wages, and Significant increases in foreign market access.

If the benchmarks are not met within five years, Congress would vote on a privileged joint resolution directing the president to terminate the trade deal.

"There are no guarantees here at all," Dorgan said. "Those that talk about being able to run this through the Congress like a hot knife through butter, I'm sorry that's not the way it's going to be. We're going to push and insist on a new approach, a new strategy that supports American workers and supports American standards."

You can read Brown's release after the jump.

Continue reading "Senate Democrats: "nothing new is on the table except a $5 Rolex"?" »

Broder: Rahm predicts as little as 25% of Dems will support "deal"

According to David Broder in the Washington Post:

The key question is how many Democrats will support trade agreements negotiated by a Republican administration. When I asked Rep. Rahm Emanuel, the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, his answer was "maybe 60 to 90," substantially less than half the Democratic membership but perhaps enough to make a majority with Republican votes.

What Emanuel -- who in an earlier life as a Clinton White House aide worked to pass the North American Free Trade Agreement -- also said is that dealing with the effects of globalization requires much more than smart trade agreements.

America's education and health-care systems also need attention, he said, and so do our incentives for investment in modern technology -- if we are to be prepared for competition from India, China and other nations. He is right, and if the coming trade debate opens up all of those issues as well, so much the better.

60 votes would be 25% of the 233 (232 currently because of a vacancy due to a death) Democrats in the House. That's why some have been saying that the Deathstar Deal is a plan to split the Democratic Caucus, and pass the Peru and Panama pacts with a majority of the minority GOP and a minority of the majority Dems. (Of course, it will be up to fair traders to let their voices be heard now to make that a reality.)

Also, maybe I missed something, but what does any of this have to do with "opening up" the issues of
health care and other social needs? As Jeff Faux documents in his latest book, Clinton promised health care but delivered NAFTA. And as I posted yesterday, the labor "concessions" on the Jordan FTA became a starting point for negotiating downwards later on. We have a history now on trade policy - after decades, 90% of promises to use trade as a strategic lever to open up other issues have been broken. (Actually, there is a link between trade policy and health and education policy, but it's not what you might think from this piece.)

No, the choice before Congress is to totally change course on trade (which has been thus far rejected), or to live with the possibility that Deathstar Deal trade pacts are the ONLY major initiative that becomes law for the 110th Congress. Not a legacy many would want to be running on next year, assuredly.

The Nation: "Dems Sell Out on Trade"

Pretty harsh words in this upcoming editorial in The Nation magazine:

When Democratic and Republican leaders announce they have fashioned a "historic" bipartisan compromise on trade, put your hand over your wallet. It probably means somebody has been sold out. In this case, we think it's the broad coalition of citizens--labor and environmental advocates and others--who want to reform corporate-led globalization. That includes all those voters who, last fall, elected new Democrats who promised to confront the multinational establishment. These insurgent forces have been pushed into a corner by the Democratic leadership's "free trade" gambit. We urge them to push back--hard--and defeat the agreement if they can.

May 16, 2007

Ranchers and Cattlemen against deal, against Fast Track

R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America, May 15, 2007

Peru, Panama Trade Deals Don’t Address Cattle Industry Concerns

Washington, D.C. – Last week, the House Ways and Means Committee (Committee) announced it had reached an agreement with the Administration regarding the Peru and Panama Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) that would allow both deals to move forward through Congress. Unfortunately, the Committee included absolutely no language that would address U.S. agricultural concerns – specifically those of the U.S. live cattle industry – and none of the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR’s) fact sheets deal with agricultural concerns either.

[the rest of the text after the jump]

Continue reading "Ranchers and Cattlemen against deal, against Fast Track" »

On Jordan Standard and Bush's Corporate "wink and a nod"

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) was on CNN last night talking about the state of play on the Deathstar Deal, and had this to say:

I think the comment from some individual leaders in the Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers is that they're kind of getting a wink and a nod fromDeathstarjpgw300h265 Secretary Schwab - the U.S. trade rep Schwab saying and perhaps Secretary Paulson saying well, these standards look good, labor will be happy, environmentalists look happy, they are good in terms of the substance. But they know they are not going to be enforced. We went through this with Jordan in 2000. Congress passed a Jordan trade agreement. It's one I voted for because it had strong labor and environmental standards. It has not been enforced and Jordan has become a sweat shop for that part of Asia. With Bangladeshi workers working there producing all kinds of apparel that ends up in our country, duty free, products of sweat shops.

The Jordan FTA is an important piece of evidence as people consider the Deathstar Deal. Consider the following:

Continue reading "On Jordan Standard and Bush's Corporate "wink and a nod"" »

May 15, 2007

Talking points on deal

This is a resource that should be helpful for those of you who are not waiting to get your communities and groups organized to let your voices be heard on the deal frosting on the poison NAFTA cake.

Continue reading "Talking points on deal" »

Chamber: Rangel trying to move Korea deal

The Associated Press has this report:

The South Korea-U.S. free trade agreement risks getting bogged down in U.S. presidential election politics next year unless Congress takes prompt steps to ratify it, a top American business association official said Tuesday."The question is how many trade votes does the Congress want to take this year," Myron Brilliant, vice president for Asian affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington...

Brilliant said that he senses Charles Rangel, the powerful chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, is taking steps to gather support among Democrats to secure passage.

"We're hopeful that Chairman Rangel now is moving towards a path of building momentum in the Democratic caucus for this agreement," said Brilliant, who is also president of the U.S.-Korea Business Council.

If the Chamber's statements are true, then anyone who thinks that the deal-making stops with Peru and Panama would appear to be sorely mistaken. That may be way even Korean Americans for Fair Trade, who are working primarily on the Korea pact, oppose the "deal." Read group member Young Choe's analysis here.

Machinists: no more flawed deals, labor provision concerns too

Machinists Union Opposed to More Flawed Trade Deals
Washington, D.C.

May 14, 2007 - The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) today announced it will vigorously oppose any trade deal that fails to fully incorporate internationally recognized labor standards as defined by the International Labor Organization (ILO) Conventions.

“The actual text of the agreement has not yet been made available and widely varying reports of its contents raise serious and troubling questions,” said IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger. “Any agreement must be clear and unambiguous with respect to all of its provisions.”

Based on initial reports, the IAM is highly suspicious that the trade deal is seriously deficient in many respects. In addition to concerns over internationally recognized labor standards and adequate enforcement mechanisms, the IAM is also raising questions over other provisions of the proposed trade deal, including procurement and investment issues.

“The Machinists Union will vigorously oppose any trade agreement that does not benefit our members,” said IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger. “This Administration has demonstrated all too often its unwillingness to defend workers’ interests and enforce our trade laws.”

The IAM is one of the largest industrial trade unions in the U.S., representing more than 700,000 active and retired members under more that 4,000 contracts in transportation, aerospace, manufacturing, shipbuilding, electronics and defense related industries. For more information, visit www.goiam.org.

May 14, 2007

Enviros: deal "not a sufficient template"

Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, Defenders of Wildlife and Earthjustice on the deal:

it is not a sufficient template for trade agreements generally or for presidential trade negotiating authority. FTAs will still provide foreign corporations the right to directly attack public health and environmental measures, and will not fully protect environmental laws from other trade challenges.

They go on to note that it's pretty difficult to trust a deal with a president who "has established the worst environmental record in modern history."

UPDATE: Carl Pope of the Sierra Club, on his blog, reiterates enviros' analysis that "we are starting from such a bad baseline -- trade deals which are neither free nor fair -- that we have a long way to go, much further than Washington has agreed to this week."

Continue reading "Enviros: deal "not a sufficient template"" »

Korean Americans against deal

As we've written here, the Dems and adminstration officials that "did the deal" are being very fuzzy about whether Thursday's announcement paves the way for other FTAs, including Korea. The group leading the charge against the Korea FTA - Korean-Americans for Fair Trade - released this statement criticizing the deal.

Continue reading "Korean Americans against deal" »

Krugman on deal's soft bigotry

Tasini and Sirota have already responded to the column by Paul Krugman, who was on the Laura Flanders's Radio Nation show on Air America with me Saturday night.

Tasini takes Krugman to task for claiming that Democratic base group "furor subsided a bit " (it hasn't), and for raising the misleading specter of "old-fashioned protectionism" (because NO ONE in the trade debate is advocating blanket tariff protection, not even small manufacturers who would probably benefit from it). Meanwhile, Sirota praises Krugman for acknowledging that “fears that low-wage competition is driving down U.S. wages have a real basis in both theory and fact."

My take on Krugman's piece can be summarized by, "You've come a long way, baby." Krugman made his name as a trade economist who rigorously showed that countries can use protection to shelter their infant industries until they build up economies of scale, and that this can actually lead to increasing gains for everyone - pretty much the opposite of what a lot of economics orthodoxy believed at the time. Still, he pulled back from aligning with anyone who was calling for more active (i.e. not even necessarily protectionist) government policies on trade.

Actually, Krugman's non-involvement allows him to note the forest that a lot of Washington groups focused on the minor trade legislative trees can't or won't:

Realistically, ... labor standards won’t do all that much for American workers. No matter how free third-world workers are to organize, they’re still going to be paid very little, and trade will continue to place pressure on U.S. wages...

By all means, let’s have strong labor standards in our pending trade agreements, and let’s approach proposals for new agreements with an appropriate degree of skepticism. But if Democrats really want to help American workers, they’ll have to do it with a pro-labor policy that relies on better tools than trade policy. Universal health care, paid for by taxing the economy’s winners, would be a good place to start.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the most generous thing you can say about the deal. That some micro reforms were brought on by the latest deal, but in the absence of minimum wage boosts, Employee Free Choice Act and other labor law reform, labor will not be better off AND more NAFTA-like trade policy will continue to put downward pressure on wages. Again, is further NAFTA expansion the one legacy item Democrats want to be campaigning on next year?? It seems ridiculous.

The Krugman piece is just the latest in a series of interventions that are trying to really raise the debate beyond micro reforms towards a real progressive ASK on national policy. For some other great interventions in this vein of eliminating the soft bigotry of low policy expectations, visit our friends at Inclusion.

Health groups bash process and substance of "deal"

Health Gap, Essential Action and Student Global AIDS Campaign - some of the nation's leading groups fighting for access to life-saving medicines - have released a statement bashing the process and substance of the "deal." Their conclusion, even with the "deal" fixes, the FTAs "restrict rather than expand access to lifesaving medicines." Read the full analysis after the jump.

Continue reading "Health groups bash process and substance of "deal"" »

May 12, 2007

Outline not guaranteed to be final deal

A detailed outline of the "deal" has been posted in Dem-speak at MyDD and in GOP-speak at USTR. Sources have told me that these were "de-classified" Thursday for the first time, after the press conference was held. They had circulated widely on the Hill on Friday.

It's important to emphasize that these are each party's description of the principles they say they think will go into a final deal. As I've written about here and elsewhere on the blog,

  • It doesn't mean that the final legal text that is still being held secret somewhere will reflect what most people would take from the spin on this outline.
  • It doesn't mean that these provisions, if they're made to mirror the spin in the outline, will not be in the form of "side letter" rather than the core text. Bush's people have said they might "skin this cat" in a variety of ways.
  • On a related point, it doesn't mean that the agreements will be re-opened and renegotiated.
  • It doesn't mean that Peru, Panama or any other country will accept the changes.
  • It doesn't guarantee that the outline provisions will make it into implementing legislation for these pacts at the end of the day. As past trade votes have shown, there are many many "bumps" along the way.

Some sources I trust say that they have reason to trust that all the parties trust each other that trustworthy reassurances have been made between Bush, senior Democrats and the Peruvian government that this outline will be the final outcome.  Okay. But then, we were also told during the election campaign that there would be no more Bush trade deals, and all the secrecy over the last few months do not inspire much confidence. And in any case, the outline provisions are not all that, as is described in some basic detail here. We will be going into excruciating detail on these points in the coming days.

Bush has posted his version of the deal

Bush has posted his version of the deal's different provisions over here. They're calling these "fact sheets" the FINAL deal. I'm no lawyer, but it seems like they would have to look a mite more, well, legal if they're gonna be the final text.

Will give some commentary later.

UPDATE: Some comments.

  • The investment "deal" achieves absolutely nothing. The investment issue - i.e. the massive expansion of corporate rights that was a defining feature of NAFTA - was a critical fix demanded by every base group and their mother. Despite not being a lawyer, I know that adding anything to the "preambular language" is meaningless. Preambles in trade law serve the function of telling someone that "it's for your own good" before kicking their guts out - it doesn't really matter what you say before you punch them - they're punched just the same.

Dorgan offers some clarity

Read fair trader Sen. Byron Dorgan's (D-N.D.) take on Thursday's foul fiesta, the deadly Bush embrace, the quixotic celebration... after the jump.

Continue reading "Dorgan offers some clarity" »

No line, no green light

If there's a lesson for fair trade groups coming out of the last few day's events, it's be careful how you word your press releases on major events. The press continues to misinterpret labor's position on the "deal." See this piece from McClatchy:

Organized labor gave qualified support Friday to a deal between the White House and congressional Democrats that includes new language on labor and the environment in four pending free-trade agreements...

Despite lukewarm support, experts such as David Lewis, a trade consultant with Manchester Trade, a lobbying and advisory firm, believe Democrats will support deals that include the new labor language.

"I think the Democrats got a green light from the AFL-CIO or it wouldn't happen . . . substantively speaking, the Democrats have their people in line,'' said Lewis, adding that current text on intellectual property protections may erode some GOP support.

Again, let's go back to labor's press releases here, here and here. There is no endorsement, no green light, no line people are queuing up to. There is a difference in tone - especially between the Change to Win unions and the AFL-CIO, maybe a lack of total clarity - but no endorsement.

Nonetheless, a valuable political lesson emerges. While most of Corporate America did not bother to wait to read the actual legal text of the deal to start praising it, progressives have decided to play the academic game and wait to react. (To their defense, the fact that the unhappy camping trip was just announced on Thursday evening didn't help with clarity and turnaround time - which was maybe the point of the Bush-Sr. Dem team doing it that way.) Whether planned or not, this difference largely explains the press coverage we're witnessing.

Action item - the cake is rotten

Last November, Americans loudly rejected the Bush administration's more-of-the-same NAFTA expansion trade policy. The majority-making Democratic freshman class won by committing to end Bush's trade war on the middle class and force new rules for a fairer global economy.

But, shockingly, last night Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined the White House and congressional Democrats and Republicans in charge of trade to announce a "deal." The deal would facilitate passage of at least Bush's NAFTA expansions for Peru and Panama. The deal involves adding stronger labor and environmental standards, but falls way short of de-NAFTA-fying those two trade agreements by removing the bans on anti-off-shoring and Buy America policies, or the outrageous foreign investor rights that facilitate off-shoring and attacks on our health and environmental laws. It's a scenario where some truly tasty icing has been spread over a deeply rotten cake.

That's just the teaser from our action item - click here to read the rest and take action.

Unhappy camping

Fortune magazine has a pretty revealing blow by blow of Thursday's deal.

  • Rangel thinks he can pull "more than 100" Democratic votes to his side.
  • Levin was the last to sign off on the deal, and he was only called in on Thursday afternoon.
  • On Thursday midday, Schwab describes senior Dem's maneuvers as taking the "balance of happy and unhappy campers." Fortune reports: "In the end, there were enough happy campers to announce a deal from Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office."
  • The Bush administration firmly believes Fast Track is just around the corner: "The real key is that we have created the path to move ahead and get fast track," said Schwab.

This is the first press account to show how really premeditated this deal was. Given the reaction of labor and other groups that we've blogged about, you gotta think a lot of us weren't even told about the camping trip.

Elsewhere, Peter Goodman in The Washington Post takes stock of the universal opposition to this deal from Democratic constituency and even small business groups. (Although he wrongly says that the deal got "labor backing" from John Sweeney. I see no endorsement here.) His summary?

Taken as a whole, the response to the deal, the highest-profile cooperation between the two parties since the Democrats captured Congress in November, underscored how trade is likely to remain a volatile and divisive issue heading into next year's presidential election.

Yeah, and it's likely to be a very harmful issue for the Democrats' re-election prospects. You pretty much can't kick your number one "get out the vote" constituency and expect to come out the better for it.

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