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September 14, 2007

USITC predicts Panamanian rural displacement

Under Fast Track, the U.S. International Trade Commission is tasked with preparing estimates of the likely impact of trade pacts under consideration. Just this week, the USITC released their report on the NAFTA expansion to Panama. Among their findings in their 200 page report:

  • There will be significant displacement of Panamanian producers (many of whom are rural poor) of corn, rice, pork and poultry, as U.S. goods flood in. Remember that NAFTA's similar provisions led to Mexico's massive rural displacement - and then U.S. immigration.
  • That even though there is very little new U.S. tariff cuts for Panama, that the NAFTA expansion "could create additional incentives for investment in export-oriented industries in Panama, as it would effectively make CBERA and GSP duty-free treatment permanent.” (at xvi, xvi) This is the avenue through which additional U.S. job displacement could occur. So the two-way street argument is pretty flawed. Corporations are looking to lock-in an off-shoring arrangement via an FTA, even though the import of products is already duty-free.
  • That the Deathstar Deal labor provisions are unlikely to lead to any on the ground improvements in workers' well being in either country. "The labor provisions contained in the proposed U.S.-Panama TPA text likely would have minimal impact on the U.S. or Panamanian labor markets or on U.S.-Panama trade because of the chapter’s focus on the enforcement of existing labor regulations and the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and Its Follow-up (1998) (ILO Declaration), which the United States and Panama are already committed to observe as members of the International Labour Organization (ILO)." at 5-22, emphasis added).
  • That consumers are very right to be concerned about the NAFTA expansion to Panama's watering down and weakening of our already fishy food safety standards. "U.S. imports from Panama were fairly concentrated in a few product categories, primarily fish and crustaceans, including shrimp, tuna, and frozen fillets of fresh-water fish; ... Fish and crustaceans accounted for more than 30 percent of total U.S. imports from Panama in 2006."

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