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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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November 30, 2007

Trade on the Trail X

This week in trade on the trail...

From the CNN/You Tube Republican debate:

My question for the candidates are, what are you going to do to make sure that these kind of toys don't make their way into our homes and that we have safe toys that are made in America again and we keep jobs in America?

Tancredo: It is illegal to import that kind of thing. The problem is, of course, no one really pays a lot of attention to a lot of our laws, with regard to immigration of both people and, now in this case, of course, items, goods and services.

I voted against permanent normalized trade relations with China -- this is one reason why. It wasn't -- that was never devised simply to be a place for us to sell our products; it was devised to be a place where we could get cheap labor to then import products to the United States.

So, one of the things you'd have to do, and I certainly would intend to do, is to change our trade arrangement entirely -- with China, by the way, in particular, but with other countries, as well, that violate those agreements.

Hunter: China is cheating on trade, and they're using that $200 billion trade deficit over the United States to buy ships, planes and missiles. They are clearly arming.

And it's in the interest of the United States to stop China's cheating. My bill, incidentally, that's up right now would do that.

But what we all ought to do in this Christmas season, with about a month to go before Christmas is buy American.

That might hire the young person. That just might keep your neighbor from losing his job, and it might help that young person coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan in uniform to have a job when they get back.

Let's buy American this Christmas season.

According to the LA Times, "Paul believes in threat of North American superhighway":

Paul's followers talk about such conspiracy theories as "merging the United States with Canada and Mexico . . .," the questioner said in a YouTube video shown during the Wednesday debate. "Do you really believe in all this?"

Paul did not miss a beat. The Texas congressman coolly raised the specter of a dire new national threat -- an as-yet unbuilt superhighway.

During the Wednesday debate, Paul also linked the purported NAFTA highway to his concerns about the Trilateral Commission -- an enduring bugaboo of conspiracy theorists -- and the World Trade Organization's "control [of ] our drug industry, our nutritional products." Paul added: "I don't like big government in Washington, so I don't like this trend toward international government."

Read (PDF) our fact sheet on the Myths and Facts of the Superhighway.

Continue reading "Trade on the Trail X" »

November 28, 2007

Peru FTA: the show's not over yet

The House vote on November 8 may have been the headliner of the Peru FTA show, but don't forget: there's still a closing act to come. The Senate vote will be sometime in the next two weeks (some folks are saying December 11), and you know what that means: folks should be writing their senators urging them to vote NO.

R-CALF is one group that's taking the fight to the Senate, coming out yesterday with a letter sent to select senators (PDF):

The Peru FTA fails to include four key provisions needed to ensure that independent U.S. cattle producers can compete fairly and equitably in the global market. In addition, it contains inadequate health and safety safeguards to protect the health and welfare of the U.S. livestock industry and U.S. consumers.

ADDENDUM: Also yesterday, a bunch of folks in Missouri drew undecided Sen. Claire McCaskill's attention to some of the flaws in the FTA, as described in this story at the Springfield News-Leader. Among the people participating on the press conference call resulting in this story were representatives from the Missouri Farmers Union and a Teamsters local.

And from numerology to astrology. What's your sign and what does it mean for Peru NAFTA?

The Washington Post actually has a useful resource! A congressional vote breakdown by astrological sign! Who knew?

Here's the Peru NAFTA expansion breakdown:

Astrological signYesNoNot Voting
Aquarius28 8 1
Aries19 10 1
Cancer30 17 2
Capricorn23 10 0
Gemini38 10 3
Leo21 14 1
Libra25 12 2
Pisces13 10 0
Sagittarius22 6 3
Scorpio20 12 1
Taurus15 11 0
Virgo31 12 2
Total285 132 16

So with some very sophisticated calculations (ignored non-votes, found percentage per sign opposing), it looks like Pisces are the most fair trade inclined with 43% of Pisces voting against the Peru NAFTA expansion.

This is not surprising since according to AstrologyZone.com, Pisces "urge to relieve suffering in others is as strong as the life force and it is the single most important element of her nature to understand."

And which sign are the biggest NAFTA supporters? Gemini has it with only 20% of Gemini House members opposing the Peru deal.

Also not surprising. According to Astrology-Online.com, Gemini "is dual-natured, elusive, complex and contradictory. On the one hand it produces the virtue of versatility, and on the other the vices of two-facedness and flightiness." This about sums it up. Many of those who voted for the Peru NAFTA expansion did so despite earlier statements condemning the overreaching investor protections, NAFTA's agricultural rules and other NAFTA provisions that appear exactly as they did in NAFTA in the Peru agreement.

So in the future, when we ask what your sign is, what we mean is are you more likely a NAFTA supporter or a fair trader?

NOTE: Senate tally not yet in. Will of course revise this important report after the Senate vote, which is likely to happen the second week of December.

November 27, 2007

Numerology, lingerie, and a half-hearted post

Dean makes a funny about numerology and David Brooks today:

David Brooks' column is full of nonsense on trade this morning. The point is to propagandize on behalf of current trade policy, which is taking a beating in popular opinion as of late. Brooks includes a wide range of factors which are somehow supposed to imply that the current trade policy is good.

Just to to take a couple of my favorites, Brooks points out from 1991 to 2007 the trade deficit grew to $818 billion from $31 billion. "Yet, .... during that time the U.S. created 28 million jobs and the unemployment rate dipped to 4.6 percent from 6.8 percent."

Let's see, according to my calculator, the sun came up 5,840 times during this period. Therefore, by Brooks logic, trade must facilitate astronomical processes. For those familiar with economic theory, the expected impact of trade would be on wages, not the number of jobs. And most workers have seen very small wage gains over this 16 year period as the bulk of the benefits of productivity growth have gone to highly-paid workers.

Brooks also cites a study by Robert Lawrence and Martin Baily that purports to show that 90 percent of the jobs lost in manufacturing are due to domestic causes. I have no idea what this is supposed to show. A trade deficit of 6 percent of GDP (now closer 5 percent) corresponds to at least 3 million lost manufacturing jobs. Does it make any difference for anything in the world how these lost jobs are divided between the loss of existing jobs or the failure to create new jobs? It certainly doesn't matter for any economic theory with which I am familiar.

Brooks also extols the fact that the people in this country have lots of kids -- that's great if you like global warming, otherwise it doesn't seem like such a great thing. Perhaps the best line is that the United States "benefits from low levels of corruption." This is probably because actions like having a CEO wreck a company, and then get a hundred million dollar severance package, are perfectly legal.

Tasini talks sweatshop lingerie:

When you slip on your Victoria Secret garb, remember this: it comes to you partly due to the wonders of so-called "free trade." And, in particular, that little Victoria Secret garment (I guess "little" is redundant in this context) may even hail from Jordan--which was supposed to be the poster child for how one forges the "right" kind of so-called "free trade" deal. But,  instead, Victoria Secret exposes the exact fallacy of so-called "free trade."

Billy Bragg takes on the corporate power mongers, in another in our series of Top 10 Best Songs About Trade:

November 26, 2007

On the political divan

Late November is the time of year when we try to digest the food we've been shoveling in our traps for days, and also try to make some sense of the goings-on of the year. But the Washington Post had a story that is not helping my physical and psychological recovery any. There's a lot of scary stuff in there about how politics happens in this town (together with Rahm's questionable dating advice), but there are some quotes of note within (my emphases):

So this spring the Democrats, in concert with union leaders such as Sweeney, crafted a long list of requirements for any trade deal with the administration. The list included requiring other nations to "adopt, maintain and enforce basic international labor standards in their domestic laws and practices" and to implement and enforce multilateral environmental agreements; ensuring that foreign investors do not enjoy greater investment protections than U.S. citizens; and providing guarantees of access to affordable prescription drugs...

"We were able, thank God, to take yes for an answer," said Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), a member of the Ways and Means Committee.

Sweeney was meeting with foreign labor leaders in Berlin when the deal was struck on May 10, but both Rangel and Pelosi called to inform him of the news. At about midnight Berlin time, Sweeney spoke to the speaker on the phone. "This is a historic agreement," he told her.

But moments later, as Pelosi walked into the Speaker's Dining Room to hold a news conference with Schwab and Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr., she found herself facing hostile Democrats. A handful of lawmakers opposed to the trade pact with Peru -- including several Democratic freshmen who had campaigned on the issue -- had squeezed themselves into the tiny room on the Capitol's first floor and stared stony-faced at the speaker.

"We're not against trade. We just want a trade system that works," said Rep. Betty Sutton (D-Ohio), a former labor lawyer who listened skeptically as the bipartisan group outlined its achievement.

Many of Sweeney's fellow union leaders delivered even harsher assessments of the new trade accord. Change to Win, the six-million member federation that now ranks as the AFL-CIO's main rival, issued a news release on May 25 saying that the agreement "does not represent the basis for the type of new U.S. trade policy that this nation desperately needs."

Even some leaders of the AFL-CIO's own affiliates rejected the agreement, saying they do not trust President Bush with the enforcement of its labor provisions...

It is a dilemma that leaves Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), a Ways and Means Committee member, wondering whether, in incorporating provisions on environmental and labor standards in the deal, his party has proven that it can deliver benefits to the working men and women who helped return it to power.

"Trade has to be sold as something that's good for us. This deal goes partway towards addressing that. Whether it goes all the way . . .," the congressman said, his voice trailing off.

November 24, 2007

Trade on the Trail - Thanksgiving News Roundup

This week's news roundup of trade on the campaign trail:

Politico says Perot voters still looking for a candidate:

Though Perot has been off the stage for a decade, strategists in both parties recognize that his supporters remain a key bloc and that voters’ dissatisfaction at the end of the administration of the second President Bush has echoes of the mood when his father was booted from office.

What’s more, neither party has geared up to focus on pet issues of the Perot crowd: opposition to immigration, unfettered trade and foreign wars.

It’s a policy mix that one of the main students of the Perot movement, College of William & Mary political scientist Ron Rapoport, refers to as “economic nationalism.”

And Tom Hayden on Huffington Post: Will Iraq and NAFTA Determine Iowa?

The coming caucuses in this otherwise quiet state are the vortex of the Democratic Party's grass-roots left-of-center insurgency against Democrats who supported the Iraq War and NAFTA. That would be Hillary Clinton and her husband. It's not Anbar province, but it's the hottest center of anti-war resistance that can make an early difference in 2008.

There is little defense industry in Iowa, so few military jobs are at stake among Democrats who vote in the caucuses. AIPAC has little clout. Economic stagnation leaves bitterness towards NAFTA-style trade agreements. It's easy to see why most Iowa Democrats would be cautious about sending the Clintons back to the White House.

And from the Wall Street Journal, John Fund on a potential Lou Dobbs candidacy:

Mr. Dobbs himself once told me that "Q" ratings that measure the popularity of media personalities found that no other media figure was more respected across the board by Democrats, Republicans and Independents. He claimed he was striking a chord with the broad middle class that transcended ideology. I think his ratings may also have something to do with picking a couple of hot-button issues that are easily demagogued, but don't be surprised if you hear more rumors about a Dobbs candidacy. Even if he doesn't enter the race, any such discussion would serve to boost his ratings.

And that's it for this week's trade on the trail...

(Disclosure: Global Trade Watch has no preference among the candidates.)

November 23, 2007

For T'giving, Mellow out or you will pay

So spake Jello Biafra in his tribute to former California Gov. Jerry Brown. So I am doing that, having scheduled this post to go up while I am on break.

But that's no reason to not be thankful for some fair trade victories. Jerry Brown, now California's attorney general, is suing the people-squashing corporations:

LOS ANGELES—California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. and Los Angeles City Attorney Rockard J. Delgadillo today sued twenty companies for manufacturing or selling toys with “unlawful quantities of lead.”

Commenting on the lawsuit which was filed today in Alameda County Superior Court, Attorney General Brown said, “Companies must take every reasonable step to assure that the products they handle are safe for children and their families and fully comply with the laws of California. Despite the lengthening global supply chain, every company that does business in this state must follow the law and protect consumers from lead and other toxic materials.”...

Companies subject to today’s lawsuit include: Mattel, Fisher-Price, Michaels Stores, Toys R Us, Wal-Mart, Target, Sears, KB Toys, Costco Wholesale, A&A Global Industries, RC2 Corporation, Eveready Battery Company, Kids II, Kmart, Marvel Entertainment, Toy Investments.

Center for America's Future has a pretty funny video about this:

This is one important plank of beginning to hold corporations accountable for the safety of the products that they have offshored production of. On another plank of this project, another Brown, this time Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), is trying to update our current laws on product recalls, which were designed for a time when most domestic consumption was domestically produced:

The Food and Product Responsibility Act of 2007 (S.2081) would require that distributors of food and consumer products demonstrate the financial capacity to cover risks associated with recalls and product safety. Specifically, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, in conjunction with other agencies, would develop a program to ensure distributors are able to cover the costs associated with both product recalls and all personal and property damages that may occur as a result of a defective product. Distributors would demonstrate that they possess product recall and liability insurance or have sufficient financial resources to afford a recall and any subsequent damage claims. Products covered would include: Auto parts, Food, drugs, devices, and cosmetics, Biological products, Consumer products, Meat, meat products, poultry, and poultry products, eggs and egg products.

In addition, Brown’s legislation would grant the Secretary of Agriculture the authority to require mandatory recalls of meat, poultry, and egg products and grant the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to require recalls for fruits, vegetables, and other products it regulates.

OK, and just cuz we're having so much fun with the Browns, I want to post the aforementioned song, California Uber Alles by the Dead Kennedys, which celebrates/mocks the former governor Brown. Despite accusing him of jogging for the master race, poisoning with organic poison gas, and forcing meditation i schools, I'm sure Jello Biafra nevertheless appreciates AG Brown's efforts to keep Californians safe from killer corporations:

November 21, 2007

Iowa and trade... it's the prices, stupid

The Wall Street Journal has a pretty fair front page story by Greg Hitt and Deborah Solomon this morning talking about the role that trade is playing in the Iowa caucuses. It shows how Clinton, Edwards, Huckabee, Obama and even John McCain are talking about fair trade policies in their appeals to voters. But many of the commentators don't get it:

Iowa's ambivalence is all the more remarkable because the state is on the whole a big winner from global trade. "Iowa, as much as any other state, is on the plus side of the ledger," says James Leach, a 30-year Republican congressman from Iowa who now runs Harvard University's Institute of Politics...

By many measures, the global economy has been good for the state. Boosted by the ethanol and biofuels craze and surging demand for crops and farm equipment world-wide, Iowa's exports are up 77% over the past four years versus 50% nationally. The state's unemployment rate hovers around 3.7%, below the national 4.6% average...

"It's unfortunate that the Democrats are willing to describe trade as part of the problem," says Robert Reich, President Clinton's labor secretary... "It's pandering to a misconception in the public. The truth is that trade is good for the U.S. but that some people are burdened by it far more than others."

That was your former elected farm state representative and labor secretary, folks - two people that should know about the price of corn, soybeans and labor. While the volume of U.S. corn and soybean exported increased as predicted by NAFTA’s proponents, the prices received by American farmers declined to the lowest levels in recent memory. While American farmers received $12.64 per bushel of soybeans (in inflation-adjusted terms) when the NAFTA predecessor Canada FTA went into place in 1988, that price halved to $6.30 by 2006. In inflation-adjusted dollars, farmers received $4.29 a bushel for corn in 1995, the year the WTO went into effect and a year after NAFTA went into effect. But a decade later in 2005, the bushel price was at a low of $2.06, and only started increasing with the recent ethanol boom  – a development that is threatened with derailment as Brazil and other agricultural exporters plot WTO challenges against U.S. corn ethanol subsidies. 

And average and median wages, as regular readers of Eyes on Trade know, have barely budged from their 1973 levels, despite a doubling of productivity. It's not a question of compensating a few losers. MOST people, who are wage earners, are net losers from our current trade policy. (The unemployment level, mentioned in the article, is pretty irrelevant, since that is driven by interest rates. It's the composition of jobs (i.e. manufacturing v. services) that is affected by trade.) Nobody serious says that trade does not play a major if not the leading role in this. So when Reich derides candidates that "are willing to describe trade as part of the problem," that's about the least they can do in their sometimes tenuous loyalty to reality. In fact, many quoted in the article say this:

  • Gene Sperling, adviser to Clinton: "Even those of us who are supportive of the open-market policies of the '90s to take seriously that the large inflow of workers from China and India digesting American jobs is placing downward pressure on wages."
  • Leo Hindery, advisor to Edwards: "My sense is that the families of Iowa have now concluded that the modest benefit to them from cheaper goods that flow through Wal-Mart have been overwhelmed by stagnating wages."

Besides these points, there was an odd comment that deserves flagging:

Most economists argue that changing technology is more to blame for the divergence of economic fortunes. Nonetheless, worker concerns are roiling the political landscape. "Everywhere you go you've got this widespread feeling, especially in the labor community, that all of the wage problems of the middle class are due to trade," says Austan Goolsbee, a University of Chicago economist advising Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama.

Actually, as a paper for the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta (no bastion of labor they) pointed out several years ago, the argument that skill-biased technological change (rather than other factors) is driving rising inequality is a pretty weak one, for among other reasons, because inequality began its rise in the late 1970s-early 1980s, while the workplace computer revolution didn't happen until the 1990s. That's just the most straightforward example; there are many more in the paper.

Oh, and for the record, and we'll be posting this on all election related posts:

Disclosure: Global Trade Watch has no preference among the candidates.

November 20, 2007

No slippage here, keep walking

Corporate and political elites have been trying to expand the WTO unsuccessfully for over a decade. One of the main components of their plan is to subject the U.S. higher education sector to WTO coverage, something that would be very bad from the perspective of domestic policy innovation. See here for more. But in the wake of the Bush lovefest on the NAFTA expansion to Peru, it seems that there might be some more rumors of slippage on the slippery slopes, ranging from more Fast Track for Bush to actually considering expanding the WTO. From today's Congress Daily PM:

U.S. Trade Representative Schwab said "there is every reason to expect" that a Doha agreement on world trade can occur before President Bush leaves office, according to a transcript of remarks she made Monday in Singapore. She also said Democratic congressional leaders have indicated a willingness to move ahead on presidential trade negotiating authority if negotiators come up with a framework for a Doha deal...

A spokesman for Speaker Pelosi said Democrats would "want to see what agreement is negotiated," but did not rule out action on trade negotiating authority if the Doha deal is good enough to appease Democrats. A spokesman for Senate Finance Chairman Baucus said that if a Doha deal is negotiated, Baucus will confer with Schwab, House Ways and Means Chairman Rangel and others "to determine the appropriate next steps." the aide said.

No indication yet on how real any of this is, or if just bluster on all sides. We'll stay tuned...

Musing on strategic pauses and the non-slippery slopes...

We heard a lot over the last year from a lot of clever Washingtonians about how if we just stopped "squawking" about the NAFTA expansion to Peru and gave Dems a pass to vote for this one, then we would avoid the "much scarier and totally different" NAFTA expansions to big, huge, giant, monstruous countries like Colombia and South Korea.

As the argument seemed to go, "principle?! who needs principles, especially when your policy stance is so easy to understand! First, spend 25% more on labor monitoring, but lower your auto tariffs by a formula equal to the logarithim of the increased labor spending, and then multiply that by the number fewer of murdered workers in non-tradable sectors over the number of increased cut flower imports. Then, while covering your eyes with a Made in China American flag blindfold, throw a dart on a spinning Made in Mexico globe, and the small country 36 degrees due west is the country where it is OK to have a NAFTA-style trade agreement."

Huh? What? As we argued previously, "what determines the effects of a trade agreement is not mainly the economic size of the country involved but instead the scope of the extraordinary corporate rights established under the agreement - rights that undermine U.S. domestic and foreign policy goals." josh Holland and David Sirota argue something similar here. Peru and Panama may not be huge, but they're big enough for a lot of corporations to think it was very important to extend NAFTA to them. I guess you don't need too much space to set up Halliburton Peru and then use the FTA's corporate rights to undermine Peruvian and U.S. laws. Or whatev' you want to do.

And if matters of principle don't get your blood racing and hips shaking, then the political argument alone should be compelling. Let's say that 20% of members of Congress are firmly with fair traders on principle, while 30% are firmly against. (As it turns out, these are the percentages of House members that vote fair trade at least 80% and 0% of the time, respectively). That leaves about 218 members - of 50% of the House - that are picking and choosing their positions on fair trade depending on the bill, and are looking to outside pressure groups to define where the lines in the sand are. Elected officials don't necessarily have a long memory, but long enough to know that a model for one country should be just as good/bad for any other country. Or let's just say, I would love to be in on the lobby meeting where someone tries to convince a member otherwise. Like Twister, expect with tainted Peruvian ceviche and Colombian murderers on the red and blue dots.

In any case, the so-called Peru-passage-for-Korea-opposition deal that clever Washingtonians were so confident about appears to be fraying apart, as America's Ways and Means chairman announces from the SquawkBox. Check out this video at about 5:54 minutes in, or read this transcript and reporting from the Bureau of National Affairs:

Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) said Nov. 16 he is optimistic that Congress will consider the pending U.S. free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea next year but cautioned that it is still not a sure bet. Rangel, who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, said that problems remain with all three agreements that will need to be resolved.

He said that the agreement with Colombia would not be approved if it were brought before Congress for a vote today, calling the situation in the country "pretty heavy in terms of the violence against a whole lot of teachers and labor leaders." "We just don't have the votes," Rangel said.

With respect to Panama, Rangel said that the fate of the pending FTA with that Central American nation may be in the hands of the State Department, following the election this fall as president of the National Assembly of a Panamanian legislator under indictment in the United States for the murder of an American soldier. Rangel called the legislator--Pedro Miguel Gonazalez-Pinzon--"a big elephant in the living room...so how we handle that may be up to the State Department."...

Rangel, speaking in an interview on CNBC's "Squawk Box," said that, with respect to the FTA with South Korea, it is "being negotiated by the Executive Branch [which] is trying to get some relief for our beef exports."

But in the end, he said, he is optimistic that Congress will take up all three agreements next year, which some observers, however, have argued may be impossible because it will a presidential election year. "I'm optimistic [that] next year we'll take a look at all of these things," Rangel said, "and maybe the situation might change."

This makes sense. After all, once you've forced tons of members of the caucus to vote for a flawed trade deal with one country, why would anyone think twice about voting for the exact same trade deal with another country? I'm not necessarily a member of the USTR fan club, but I think the fine team over there could probably bring some pressure to bear to reshuffle some Panamanian officials, Colombian statistical methods on assassinations, and Korean tariffs.  Maybe that would be enough of a template for a new trade policy for some observers, but I don't think that such little tweaks are what really make the difference when we're facing a massive bleeding of high-paying jobs ever further up the skill and income ladder.

D4507fn1 And that brings me to my last and final musing of the day, on the argument for a "strategic pause" on trade. Jeff Faux from EPI has been raising this notion for a long time, and it must be a pretty powerful idea because presidential candidates are feeling the need to echo it, and from what I've read and heard, the Corporate Powers That Be within Dem circles are very scared of it.

Continue reading "Musing on strategic pauses and the non-slippery slopes..." »

November 16, 2007

And this week's Trade on the Trail

And lots of trade on the campaign trail this week:

According to Business News Analysis (BNA), "Sen. Clinton Invited to Colombia in Bid To Reverse Her Opposition to Trade Pact" (sorry, not linkable):

Clinton, the frontrunner in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, said in a Nov. 8 statement posted on her campaign's Web site (www.hillaryclinton.com) that she opposes U.S. congressional endorsement of the Colombia FTA, as well as those with South Korea and Panama.

"I am very concerned about the history of violence against trade unionists in Colombia," the statement said.

Speaking to reporters in Chile on Nov. 9, Uribe called Clinton's statement unacceptable. "This is very serious, very serious," he said. "It's an unforgivable misunderstanding of Colombia."

Plata, who is visiting Washington the week of Nov. 12 to meet Bush administration officials and members of Congress, said that the Colombian government has made major progress in curbing violence in the country, including against union members. 

And according to the Associated Press:

Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton told union activists Monday she would call a "time out" on trade agreements if she wins the White House to see if the deals are draining jobs from the U.S.

"I am going to do everything I can to move toward smart trade," said Clinton.

She promised to appoint an official to ensure that trade agreement provisions designed to protect labor and environmental standards are enforced by groups such as the World Trade Organization and the International Labor Organization.

Is she saying the time out starts right after she votes for the Peru NAFTA expansion?

Also according to the Associated Press, "Obama Challenges Clinton on Trade Deals" (ironic given this):

"So, when a candidate rails against NAFTA today, it's fair to ask her where she was with NAFTA 20 years ago," said Obama. "You don't just suddenly wake up and say NAFTA is a terrible thing when you were for it before."

Obama made his case at a regional convention of the United Auto Workers just a day after Clinton used the same forum to call for a "time out" on new trade deals while their impact on American jobs is assessed.

In her speech, Clinton said she would be cautious on new trade agreements, but she carries the baggage of her husband's presidency during which NAFTA was negotiated and approved.

"Politicians often say they are pro-labor at election time, no matter what they've said or done before," said Obama. "And that leaves you wondering what they will say or do after the election."

Well, I guess we don't have to wonder, but Obama's consistent support of the NAFTA model (with the weird exception of CAFTA which has the same rules as the other agreements, incl. Peru, Panama, etc.) in spite of the facts might be scarier than a candidate who responds to the politics of the situation. NAFTA expansions have proven to be both bad policy and bad politics.

And from the John Edwards campaign this week, according to the Associated Press, "Edwards Vows to Reverse Trade Policies:"

Democrat John Edwards vowed Wednesday to labor leaders that if elected president he will reverse trade and tax policies — some of them dating from Bill Clinton's administration — that he said are designed to wipe out middle-class working families.

And from last night's debate in Las Vegas, according to MSNBC's First Read:

Clinton responded to moderator Wolf Blitzer’s question about NAFTA with a chuckle. “Sen. Clinton, all of us remember the big NAFTA debate when your husband was president of the United States,” Blitzer said. “A lot of us remember the debate between Al Gore, who was then vice president, and Ross Perot. Ross Perot was fiercely against NAFTA. Knowing what we know now, was Ross Perot right?”

“All I can remember from that is a bunch of charts,” she replied. “That, sort of, is a vague memory.” Clinton went on to call for the enforcement of current trade agreements, including environmental, labor, and corporate provisions within them.

Also according to First Read, the Edwards campaign held a press call today to talk about the debate:

Joining Bonior on the call were Edwards endorsers Rep. Michael Michaud of Maine, Roger Tauss of the Transport Workers Union International and Leo Gerard of United Steelworkers International. They used the call to push Edwards’ opposition to the Peru free trade agreement, which recently passed the House, and to tie Clinton to what they saw as her husband’s failures during his administration. “There’s no question that Bill Clinton gave us the North American Free Trade Agreement, and it was his administration that failed to give us universal health care,” Bonior said.

And on this topic, a video courtesy of David Sirota:

And on Mike Huckabee, the Nation reports, "Huckabee Rises -- On a Wave of Economic Populism:"

Two news polls from Iowa have former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee rapidly gaining on the longtime front-runner in that state's caucus contest, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney...

In tenuous economic times -- characterized by foreclosures, high gas prices and fears of recession -- the Arkansan is campaigning as a populist who criticizes corporations, talks about the need to change our trade policies and promises to tip the balance away from Wall Street and toward Main Street.

Huckabee's actually secured the endorsement of the Machinists union with that kind of talk. But the real breakthrough is with working-class socially conservative Republicans in Iowa. He's giving them an alternative to Tom Frank's "What's the Matter With Kansas?" scenario -- in which low- and middle-income Americans vote against their class interests in order to advance their "moral values."

And don't forget about the Senate. Just like the 2006 midterms, candidates across the country are campaigning on no more NAFTA platforms. Take Oregon for example where leading Democratic U.S. Senate candidate, Jeff Merkley, running against Republican incumbent Gordon Smith, sent out a press release opposing the Peru NAFTA expansion:

"The Peru trade deal still sticks too closely to NAFTA. With the loss of thousands of Oregon jobs since NAFTA passed, we have to move away from using it as a model," Merkley said. "Future trade negotiations would be wise to ditch NAFTA as a starting point. Right now, the Peru agreement just isn't good enough for American working families."

Stay tuned for more Trade on the Trail.

(Disclosure: Global Trade Watch has no preference among the candidates.)

Protectionism Killing Economy? Um, no.

CNBC asked today at 6:30 am on Squawk Box is "Protectionism Killing Economy?"

Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch division debated John Fund of the Wall Street Journal, but really it wasn't much of a debate.

Watch it here (if it doesn't appear via the link, search for "Lori Wallach"):

Protectionism Killing Economy?
Protectionism Killing Economy?

A few of my favorite parts:

  • John Fund: "[Alan Greenspan] is a pure free trader no matter what his economic analysis might lead him to say."
  • John Fund: "The majority of Democrats in Congress voted for it" (note: the Dem vote was 108 supporting to 116 opposed)

Lori Wallach: "A majority opposed it actually..."

John Fund: "If you add in the Senate a majority of Congress supported it."
Lori Wallach: "They haven't voted yet. Check your facts!"
  • Host: "We can't dictate the laws of these countries but we can open markets..."

Lori Wallach: "You just made my case. If these trade agreements were just about trade we wouldn't be having this debate...Have you guys read the agreement? Have you?" [silence]

November 15, 2007

Happy HoLEADays?!

Great video from Sierra Club wishing you a happy holeadays!

And remember kids: It's the rules of the game that cause lead-filled lockets and filthy fish to enter the U.S. - trade rules that put limits on what can be inspected and how much.

Take a look:

November 14, 2007

AFL "unalterably opposed" to Colombia FTA

There have been recent ruminations that the Dems might actually consider bringing the Colombia FTA to the floor next year (ie the November 2 Inside U.S. Trade story entitled, "Rangel Willing To Consider Colombia FTA Next Year If Support Warrants"). But unlike with the Peru deal, the AFL-CIO is taking a hard line on this one, saying it "remains unalterably opposed" to the Colombia FTA. In a letter sent to both the House and Senate last Thursday, the day of the Peru vote, the AFL said:

"...two trade union leaders were murdered in Colombia within the last week... These murders are only the most recent and tragic reminders of the danger experienced by our Colombian brothers and sisters... More troubling, the vast majority of those responsible for the over 2,200 murders of trade unionists since 1991 are still at large and face no criminal charges. Even with the recent convictions, the impunity rate remains over 97 percent... passing the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement at this time would cost the United States considerable leverage over Colombia to encourage continued progress on human rights."

Attached to the letter is a laundry list of issues of concern, which could be summarized thusly:

  • There are still more murders of trade unionists in Colombia than in any other country.
  • The rate of impunity for the murder of trade unionists from 1991-2007 is between 97 and 98 percent.
  • Dialogue between unions and the government is sorely lacking, and the ILO Office in Colombia lacks the political support, funding and staffing necessary to adequately fulfill its role (and its mandate will expire in October 2008).
  • Colombia's labor laws are not in compliance with core ILO standards.

Read the full text of the letter, as well as the attachment, here (PDF).

November 09, 2007

Trade on the Trail - Big week!

Here are some excerpts from various presidential primary Peru press statements - say that 5 times fast!

After the Peru NAFTA-expansion passed in the House yesterday with a majority of Democrats voting against it, Sen. Clinton's campaign put out this statement:

I support the trade agreement with Peru. It has very strong labor and environmental protections. This agreement makes meaningful progress on advancing workers’ rights, and also levels the playing field for American workers. Most Peruvian goods already enter the U.S. duty free, but our exports to Peru have been subject to tariffs.

However, I will oppose the pending trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama. The South Korean agreement does not create a level playing field for American carmakers. I am very concerned about the history of violence against trade unionists in Colombia. And as long as the head of Panama’s National Assembly is a fugitive from justice in America, I cannot support that agreement. Accordingly, I will oppose the trade agreements with these countries.

Sen. Dodd's campaign put out this one:

Americans are looking for change - but there's nothing new in supporting the failed trade policy of the last six years, which is partially responsible for the loss of 3 million manufacturing jobs. It's disappointing that Senators Clinton and Obama, in supporting this [Peru] agreement, would support more of the same, which will only add to our deficit, taking jobs away from hardworking Americans and shipping them elsewhere.

And Edwards put out this:

For decades, our leaders in Washington have pursued trade policies that have devastated communities like the ones I grew up in. Take NAFTA – it was supported by insiders from both political parties, but it has cost us more than 1 million jobs. Now, at a time when American families are terribly concerned about job losses and a weak economy, our Congress is about to vote on expanding the NAFTA-free trade model to Peru.

And then this:

As I have said before, there are real and serious differences in this presidential race, and our stands on this trade deal are another example. Whereas voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and all across America have learned that I will fight for safe and smart trade, now they see that Senator Clinton, by supporting this trade deal, has chosen to follow a very different path.

And from Kucinich:

This morning's passage of the Peru Free Trade Agreement by the U.S. House proves that the Democrat-controlled Congress is totally out of touch with the American people and refuses to abide by promises it made to voters in last year's elections, Democratic Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich said immediately following the vote.

Others have been pretty quiet but as far as house votes, here they are:

  • Duncan Hunter missed the vote.
  • Tom Tancredo voted yes.
  • Ron Paul voted no.

And in related news both New Hampshire representatives voted no on Peru NAFTA.

From the Associated Press:

In yesterday's debate, New Hampshire's Carol Shea-Porter asked at least for a delay. She joined opponents who said they worry about job losses, and spoke of plant closures in the state. She and Congressman Paul Hodes voted against the plan.

Roundup of What People Are Saying About the Peru FTA

Here's what people have been saying about Peru:

And in the press:

November 08, 2007

The lede says it all

From the Los Angeles Times,

WASHINGTON — In a rare victory for President Bush since Democrats took control of Congress, the House approved a trade agreement with Peru today in a vote that exposed a rift within the Democratic ranks over the issue...

But 116 Democrats still opposed the agreement, including some freshmen from districts where trade has been blamed for taking away jobs and shuttering work sites.

"Districts like mine represent the very worst of unfair trade -- jobs lost, economies devastated and lives shattered," said Rep. Phil Hare (D-Ill.). "Weary of more bad trade deals, last November voters swept fair-trade Democrats into office -- sending a clear mandate for a new direction on trade. And yet here we are. Voting on another one-sided, so-called free-trade agreement."

Our Statement: Majority of House Democrats Stand up for Constituents

Majority of House Democrats Stand up for Constituents, Vote ‘No’ on Peru NAFTA Expansion, Demand a New Direction on Trade

Statement of Lori M. Wallach, Director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch Division

Also see our e-mail alert for a summary and an action you can take to thank or criticize your member of Congress for his or her vote.

Despite intense pressure and lobbying from some Democratic leaders, a massive corporate coalition and the White House, a majority of Democrats in the House of Representatives today opposed Bush's Peru NAFTA expansion agreement, echoing the American public's widespread discontent with the status quo trade policy.

That a majority of Democrats opposed the Peru NAFTA expansion - theoretically the least controversial of Bush's remaining trade deals - will put the final nails in the coffins of any further Bush administration expansions of NAFTA to Panama, Colombia or South Korea.

The opposition from 117 Democrats - including nearly three-fourths of Democratic freshmen and a majority of the party's committee chairs- shows that significant work remains to create a framework for trade agreements that can earn public support nationwide and thus bipartisan support in Congress.

Despite the fact that many more Democrats occupy House seats, the Peru "free trade agreement" (FTA) obtained less Democratic support than the 2004 Australia FTA, the 2004 Morocco FTA, and the 2005 Bahrain FTA. The Peru FTA, because it fell short of approval by the Democratic majority, has proven itself an unacceptable framework for future trade deals.

Hopefully the next trade debate in the Congress will be about how to create a new template for future trade agreements that will benefit the majority of Americans and thereby be able to win the support of the Democratic majority.

In light of the 2006 elections, when Democrats took control of Congress after 37 freshmen successfully campaigned against the Bush trade agenda and replaced 37 anti-fair traders, many Americans likely will wonder how President Bush managed to eke out this rare victory and get a NAFTA expansion agreement through the Democratic-majority Congress. That a Democratic-majority Congress would pass a Bush trade agreement opposed by most Democrats may be especially puzzling since the vote came a week after Bush announced he would veto Democratic legislation to help workers who lose jobs to trade, and after Bush vetoes of Democrats' priorities - children's health insurance and anti-war legislation.

This vote reveals that many in Congress understand that what determines the effects of a trade agreement is not mainly the economic size of the country involved but instead the scope of the extraordinary corporate rights established under the agreement - rights that undermine U.S. domestic and foreign policy goals.

Trade per se was not the issue today. The Peru NAFTA expansion was opposed by so many Democrats because it establishes new corporate rights that promote offshoring of U.S. jobs; expose our environmental, food safety and health laws to challenge in foreign tribunals; empower foreign corporations to skirt Buy America and anti-off-shoring policies; provide Big Pharma with extended patent rights that undermine affordable access to medicine; and empower U.S. firms, such as Citibank, to demand compensation if Peru reverses its disastrous social security privatization.

No U.S. labor, environmental, consumer, faith, family farm or development group supported this agreement, which also is opposed by both of Peru's labor federations, its major indigenous people's organization and its archbishop.

The passage of the Peru NAFTA-expansion, which was overwhelmingly opposed in the United States and Peru, is bad foreign policy, bad domestic policy and egregiously bad politics.

###

Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit www.citizen.org .

30 Freshmen Democrats Voting No Peru FTA
1.     Arcuri  (NY)
2.     Altmire  (PA)
3.     Boyda (KS)
4.     Carney (PA)
5.     Cohen  (TN)
6.     Courtney (CT)
7.     Donnelley  (IN)
8.     Ellison (MN)
9.     Hall (NY)
10.   Hare (IL)
11.   Hirono (HI)
12.   Hodes (NH)
13.   Johnson, Hank (GA)
14.   Kagen (WI)
15.   Loebsack (IA)
16.   McNerney (CA)
17.   Murphy C.  (CT)
18.   Murphy P. (PA)
19.   Richardson (CA)
20.   Rodriguez (TX)
21.   Sarbanes (MD)
22.   Shea-Porter (NH)
23.   Shuler (NC)
24.   Space (OH)
25.   Sutton (OH)
26.   Tsongas (MA) 
27.   Walz (MN)
28.   Welch (VT)
29.   Wilson (OH)
30.   Yarmouth (KY)
Braley (IA) missed vote, issued news release in opposition

11 Freshmen Democrats Voting Yes Peru FTA
1.      Castor (FL)
2.      Clarke (NY)
3.      Ellsworth (IN)
4.      Gillibrand (NY)
5.      Hill, B. (IN)
6.      Klein (FL)
7.      Lampson (TX)
8.      Mahoney (FL)
9.      Mitchell  (AZ)
10.    Perlmutter (CO)
11.    Sestak (PA)

Chairs
12 House Chairs voting no: Brady, Conyers, Filner, Miller, Markey, Obey, Peterson, Rahall,  Slaughter, Spratt, Thompson, Velazquez
7 House Chairs voting yes: Dingell, Frank, Gordon, Rangel, Skelton, Waxman, Reyes
Missing: Oberstar and Lantos, both opponents of Peru FTA

Live-blogging the Peru FTA, Part Endgame

1:47 pm: Word is that there will be one vote switch from a yes to a no, meaning the count will be 117 no, 108 yes, 8 not voting.

11:19 am: A majority of the Dems opposed the Peru FTA - 116 voting no, 109 voting yes, 8 not voting. 50% against, 47% for, 3.4% not voting. Bush's NAFTA expansion makes it through Congress with minority of majority. Roll call up

10;54 am: voting has started...

10:51 am: Rangel is closing out the debate, saying people should vote their conscience, and asking that people not challenge his integrity... not to make it personal or anything...

10:42 am: House Trade Working Group co-chair Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine) pointing out that this Peru deal is not about whether Peru has a large economy, but about principle of standing up for Americans and not just for big corporations. "We embrace globalization so long as it lifts us all up." One word: rockstar.

10:38 am: The GOP side is giving up its time to Rangel and Levin...

10:10 am: Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) is from the other side of Oregon, but one that is no less anti Peru FTA. A recent news article highlighted the differences between the two reps.

10:07 am: Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) gave a brilliant one-minute speech on Peru FTA. Peru deal is "by, for and about Wall Street."

"The dollar is dropping like a rock. We're borrowing $2 billion a day from overseas to buy things that we don't make in America anymore. We've lost 4 million manufacturing jobs nationally, and 40,000 jobs here in Oregon due to so-called free trade policies. Millions of middle class Americans are seeing their pay go stagnate or decline. Our current trade policy is a dismal failure. It's a failed engine for America's economy."

"Now along comes the Peru Free Trade agreement. The advocates say the burgeoning middle class in Peru are going to be a huge market for the goods that we don't make in America anymore. They tout the breakthroughs on modest environmental and labor provisions, but the destructive multi-national corporate-written chapter 11 core, that lead to the failure of NAFTA, CAFTA, and other trade agreements, remains at the center of this policy. This agreement is by, for, and about Wall Street, plain and simple. It's not in the best interest of American workers, the U.S. economy, or our national security."

"If trade is the engine that drives our economy, we need an overhaul. Instead, with this bill, we're getting a new hood ornament, some side view mirrors and a misbegotten cousin of NAFTA as a trade policy."

Date-Rape Drug Found in Chinese Toys

We'll get back to our regularly scheduled Peru FTA liveblog in an hour or two according to Majority Leader Hoyer, but this Wall Street Journal find was too shocking to put off: (sorry, not linkable, although CNN is.)

More than four million Chinese-made toys sold in the U.S. as Aqua Dots are being recalled after reports surfaced that children swallowed beads containing a chemical found to mimic the effects of the so-called date-rape drug.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission said it has received two reports of children swallowing Aqua Dots and slipping into comas. Both children are now fine, the commission said. At least three children have been hospitalized in Australia, where the product is called Bindeez, after ingesting beads from the toy... Wal-Mart Stores Inc. listed the product as one of its "Top 12 Toys of Christmas."

Why don't we start targeting China for 50%+ inspection rates, you ask? A little something called the WTO, which has rules on so-called "national treatment" and other provisions that limit U.S. ability to target problem countries. The FTA with Peru, which has the world's largest food catch business after China and many health violations, further locks in these rules for Peru, and gives firms operating there the right to sue our government for our tax dollars if they don't like our food inspection regime, or other public interest policies.

November 07, 2007

Liveblogging the Peru FTA

10: 58 pm: The reps are signing off, and so are we, until around 10 tomorrow morn. Here's a pretty exciting global justice song, by none other than Anti-Flag, to sing you to sleep: "The WTO Kills Farmers." And so does the Peru FTA, dude.

10:55 pm: Rep. Betty Sutton (D-Ohio), a rockstar, and true heir to now-Sen. Sherrod Brown's (D-Ohio) seat. Representin' Lorain, mos def.

10:47 pm: Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), one of the CAFTA 15, almost got kicked out of office by Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, who challenged his pro-CAFTA vote, and went on to be elected on a fair trade platform in the neighboring district.

10:43 pm: Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) lectures FTA critics as arrogant for pointing out the Peruvians oppose the deal, because their elected officials support the deal. This is the same government that is today breaking a strike, the same elite that privatized their social security system and marginalized the poor. In the words of Peru's largest indigenous federation when they appealed to the US Congress to oppose the deal,

It is very unfortunate that our own Republic’s Congress approved the signing of such a damaging treaty as the Peru FTA. Our democracy is still weak, due in part to the ongoing history of colonialism and racism that excludes meaningful input from affected indigenous communities who fight against exploitation and marginalization. All this leads us to place our hope in your colleagues and above all in you, the members of the U.S. Congress, to represent the best of democracy in our hemisphere and vote down this shameful Peru FTA.

10:39 pm: Rep. Phil Hare (D-Ill.) brought tears and applause to the room, arguing for the no vote. He said some pro-FTA character told him that he should vote for the deal but then talk to his constituents about currency manipulation. Hare said, "I better wear a football helmet if I try, cuz he's going to try to hit me."

10:32 pm: Rep. Melissa Bean (D-Ill.), one of the CAFTA 15, making her fourth consecutive vote for NAFTA expansion.

10:26 pm: Rep. Artur Davis (D-Ala.) gives some questionable dating advice: "Sometimes, you have to take yes for an answer." Oh wait, no he was just talking about the Peru FTA.

10:20 pm: Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.), one of the cofounders of the House Trade Working Group. Calls the "Peru FTA junker" the same "ol NAFTA lemon." "The actual benefits of NAFTA are about as real as the tooth fairy," mentions the promise that immigration would be reduced, but the opposite happened. "The enemy of the good is the bad," in response to the claim that "The enemy of the good is the perfect."

10:13 pm: Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) sez he hasn't "been a purist on trade." That's true: he voted the fair trade position during the Clinton years, and then switched to an anti-fair trade position on 7/9 trade votes during the Bush years. (The two where the political pressure was the highest - CAFTA and Fast Track - he voted the fair trade position.) He's been one of the staunchest advocates of Bush's NAFTA expansion to Peru.

10:08 pm: Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), the presidential candidate who once led the GOP charge against NAFTA, representing the GOP that 2-to-1 think the trade status quo is a bad idea.

10:03 pm: Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.), another very odd vote for the Peru FTA. Says he "voted against all of em" - referring to trade agreements. "This deal isn't perfect, no one this floor is either."

10:01 pm: Gotta love the Texas delegation. Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) is part of the state's delegation that received by far the most corporate money in 2007 from the 13 corporations most interested in pushing the Peru FTA.

9:52 pm: Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) reminds folks that Pelosi and Hoyer voted FOR NAFTA. Reminds folks of how much people were excited about the Jordan FTA, which did not turn out as planned. Points out plenty of benefits for Newmont Mining and Citigroup if the thing passes.

9:41 pm: Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.), an all around GOP leader on trade, "where in the world is this country going?" "Some fat cat somewhere is going to make big bucks," in a great N.C. accent.

9:38 pm: Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) on enforcement: "President Bush has never inconvenienced multinational corporations.... IF you vote for this agreement, it's because you have faith in George Bush."

9:35 pm: Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), for the Peru FTA, possibly the most out of step with his constituents of any of the Dems, who have locked themselves down in civil disobedience at his Portland office.

9:26 pm: Rep. TIm Ryan (R-Wis.) talked about all the brilliant export growth to our FTA nations, failing to mention that our export growth rate to FTA countries as a whole are below that of non-FTA countries.

9:20 pm: Rep. Stephanie Tubbs-Jones (D-Ohio) of Cleveland, very oddly for the Peru FTA. Here's what she had to say about the virtually identical CAFTA:

Mrs. JONES of Ohio. I would like to thank the gentleman from New York for this opportunity to be heard. Mr. Speaker, I rise today against CAFTA because the agreement not only lacks significant labor protections for workers in the CAFTA countries, but also lacks necessary support for American workers. Charity begins at home. Let us not talk about our neighbors' workers. Let us talk about our own workers. With international trade comes economic pain. The United States has lost 2.8 million manufacturing jobs since January 2001. In Ohio, we have lost 200,000 jobs. Past administrations and Congresses have acknowledged a relationship between international trade and domestic job losses by having created the Trade Adjustment Assistance program in 1962 and subsequently expanding it. The program assists workers who have lost their jobs due to international trade by extending unemployment compensation and providing job training. Training is arguably the most important TAA component, as education and learning new skills is essential to finding a new job. During the Ways and Means Committee markup, I introduced an amendment that addressed that problem in order to keep up with worker demand. Unfortunately, that amendment was rejected. Additionally, during CAFTA markup, the Senate Finance Committee adopted an amendment that would have expanded TAA. Unfortunately, that provision was stripped from the CAFTA legislation. So right now there is nothing in TAA or in this final CAFTA legislation to assist American workers that have lost their jobs. Even a provision that Chairman Thomas originally included in the bill is stripped from the legislation. That study would have looked into whether TAA should be expanded as a result of any negative effects of CAFTA. So I ask, where is the commitment to the American worker in the CAFTA bill? NAFTA, CAFTA, SHAFTA for American workers.

For the record, Bush says he'll veto TAA, and "necessary support for American workers" is not in the picture. NAFTA, CAFTA, PUFTA, SHAFTA for American workers.

9:18 pm: Levin, without substantiation, says that the social security issue is without substantiation. But House staff, likely his own, admitted that such a case could be brought.

9:15 pm: Rep. Robin Hayes (R-N.C.), who nearly lost his seat lost year due to his tie-breaking votes on Fast Track and CAFTA, is in opposition. Smart guy! He points out that small business groups are frustrated that scarce congressional resources and time was spent pushing an "unpopular trade deal" with Peru, while ignoring China trade and other issues.

9:10 pm: Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) brings the pain, and bashes Citibank.

9:04 pm: Rep. John Tanner (D-Tenn.), who has voted for EVERY SINGLE EXPANSION OF NAFTA, and the anti fair trade position on 18/19 votes, made us drink twice in our drinking game: "ARE YOU WITH AMERICA, OR YOU WITH HUGO CHAVEZ?!" Not quite as soul stirring as "Mr. Gorbachev, tear this wall down!" but I'm always happy to have an opportunity to drink.

8:56 pm: Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), the CAFTA czar, not surprisingly FOR the expansion of CAFTA and NAFTA to Peru.

8:54 pm: Rep. Dale Kildee (D-Mich.), from Flint, Mich., against the Peru FTA. Points out that not only Bush, but ALL presidents he has worked with from both parties do not bother to enforce trade rules.

8:50 pm: Rep. Jim Ramstad (R-Minn.), who has voted for 19/19 unfair trade votes, not surprisingly for the Peru FTA, and leaving Congress next year.

8:48 pm: Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), the NAFTA czar, not surprisingly FOR the expansion of NAFTA to Peru. He talks about how his part of the party talks about the need for pensions and other economic strategies, but only delivers on trade.

8:45 pm: Why are they making Jerry Weller, family member of dictators, the face of the "yes" vote?

8:43 pm: Rep. David Wu (D-Ore.) rejecting the FTA, saying human rights need to be put in with labor and environment rights.

8:25 pm: Rangel calls it "historic." "It's ridiculous to believe that we can create jobs without trade." "What we're talking about now is what is good for the country."

Just announced by Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) that the bataan death march goes on until tomorrow morning. They'll do most of the debate tonight.

Liveblogging the Peru FTA - Rules debate edition

7:38 pm: Speaker Pelosi (D-Calif.) is taking the stand. "I have usually been on the other side of this debate than I am tonight." Tells stories about how she opposed China PNTR, increase in deficit and unsafe food. "When I saw an oporuntity for us to have labor and env standards as a core part of our trade agreement, it marked a difference from what even a Dem president was willilng to do on that score." Says she "hopes that the president of the US" will sign the TAA bill, even though he has said he will veto it. "Hopefully we can pass SCHIP" and other legislation, also things that Bush has also vetoed, as she explains why she is helping Bush out with the Peru FTA. "We cannot turn our backs on it... I don't want our party to be viewed as an anti-trade party." She says the Peru FTA "rises to the level of acceptance." Claims that the parliament of Peru passed the laws that were really passed by decree by the president, who is today crushing a labor strike. "The Peru FTA is not a big deal."

7:36 pm: Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine): "I didnt come to Washington to ignore my constituents back home." He is the leader rounding up no votes. Reminds folks that Bush is going to veto TAA.

7:33 pm: Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.), one of the architects of the deal that is the reason for why Peru FTA is being voted on, he calls the Peru FTA "the antithesis of CAFTA." But Levin supported agreements exactly like NAFTA and CAFTA with Chile, Singapore, Morocco, Australia, and Bahrain, not to mention his key role in ushering the China PNTR through in 2000 - which arguably has had the largest economic impact on the U.S. economy of any trade deal.

7:28 pm: Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio): "This new direction Congress offers up more of the same... [saying you support the changed preamble language as a reason for supporting the Peru FTA] it's like saying you support the preamble to the Bill of Rights but not the rights themselves." Kaptur is really challenging Drier, who is talking about Whirlpool jobs (Whirlpool is a major Peru FTA pusher). Kaptur notes that this is the same Whirpool that that just offshored all the Maytag jobs in Iowa after buying it up.

7:26 pm: Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.) lauds the "progressive" advances in the Peru FTA, contrasting it with past trade deals. He doesn't mention that he voted against fair trade on 11/19 votes, including many NAFTA-style trade agreements and the WTO.

7:20 pm: Rep. Jerry Weller (R-Ill.) is speaking up as the face of the deal. Remember that he is retiring in part because of questions of his massive conflicts of interest on Latin America trade deals: namely, he has investments that benefit directly from CAFTA, and he is married into the region's leading dictatorial family after Pinochet. It's pretty rich that he is talking about democracy as the reason for passing the deal.

7:15 pm: Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) is expressing skepticism that much is changed with the Peru FTA, since the new labor and environmental provisions leave it up to Bush to decide whether to enforce them. Stupak is also concerned about the WTO food and consumer safety inspection regime that gets locked in with the Peru FTA, which prioritizes "free passage of food" over "proper regulation."

7:14 pm: Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) is speaking, a freshman who ran on this following platform: "I do not support trade deals that do not require fully enforceable protections for workers rights and the environment on par with protections for business. Additionally, I do not support the growing threat in these free trade deals to undermine the ability of our nation and our state to pass and enforce laws and regulations in the public interest. I would have voted against NAFTA, CAFTA, and the range of similar free trade deals that recent administrations have negotiated. Our nation needs an entirely different approach to our engagement with the global economy, a sort of global New Deal that protects jobs and democracy here, and contains specific mechanisms to raise wages and living standards in out trading partner nations. Public pressure for such a change is growing as recent polling has indicated, and I intend to be one of the prime movers in Congress for such a change.” Mentions that the Peru deal is going to help lock-in social security privatization in Peru, and displace rural peasants in Peru. Also mentions we should never have any more Fast Track, and that Congress should get to amend trade pacts.

7:11 pm: Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) says "we have not fully achieved the job" of trade reform.  Announces there's going to be a hearing on investor-state issues, and acknowledges that nothing on Peru FTA investor-state was changed by the deal between Bush and some Dems.

7:08 pm: Rep. Joe Baca (D-Calif.) is opposing the bill, arguing a very basic bottom line: is our trade policy creating net manufacturing jobs or not? He says not.

7:03 pm: Chairman Rangel taking the high road from the beginning, suggesting opponents are against trade and against Latin America. Rock and roll.

7:02 pm: Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) in favor of "free trade with free people," but he opposed NAFTA with Mexico. Also had a great song about it.

6:57 pm: Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-N.H.), who in her campaign said, "The Republican leadership has thwarted the will of the American people, traded favors with lobbyists in the halls of our Temple of Democracy, sent our jobs overseas and voted to allow our president to torture." Now, she's on the floor asking why in the heck we're in such a rush to pass these trade deals when factories in her district are closed. She cited today's Meyerson piece that made the same point.

6:51 pm: Wanna play a fun drinking game? How many times will "Hugo Chavez" be mentioned during this debate? Drier has already said it several times. Not mentioned is the fact that Hugo Chavez rose in power in response to the implementation of neo-liberal policies in Venezuela. Message? Drier HEARTS Chavez. Drier also praises "socialist" Alan Garcia, who used to follow "bad" economic policies, but today (on the day of the Peru vote) broke a strike by workers. Not super bright, and not super socialist.

6:48 pm: Rep. David Drier (R-Calif.) is saying people that are against this trade deal are AGAINST U.S. EXPORTS, even though the U.S. International Trade Commission, the bipartisan and official source for trade projections, estimates that the U.S. global trade deficit will go up $100-300 million if the Peru FTA is signed. (A LITTLE MATH: EXPORTS - IMPORTS = TRADE DEFICIT.) He also mentioned that he wants to push forward down the slippery slope to the Colombia FTA, exactly what a lot of Washington insiders said would not happen if we just quietly let the Peru FTA pass.

6:34 pm: Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) is beginning the one hour debate on the rule, by celebrating the TAA bill passed last week in the House. Didn't mention that Bush will veto it.

Rep. Grijalva: "This is progress?"

Check out this Dear Colleague letter from the office of Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.). The House has yet to begin debate on the FTA, so it looks like we could be here into the night.

Peruvian Gov’t Represses Strike on Day of FTA Vote:
This is progress?

Dear Colleague:

I wish to forward for your consideration before today's vote on the "Free Trade" Agreement with Peru the following disturbing article.

On the very day this House will vote on the Peru FTA, the Peruvian government is moving to repress a strike by miners who are fighting for, among other things, the simple right to an eight-hour work day.

If the Peruvian government feels confident in repressing labor the day of this vote, when the issues are so very clear and basic, I shudder to think what kind of future Peruvian government action we will enable if this FTA passes the House.

I urge you to take these developments into consideration and OPPOSE the Peru FTA.

Sincerely,

s/
Raúl M. Grijalva
Member of Congress

(read the attached article after the jump)

Continue reading "Rep. Grijalva: "This is progress?"" »

National Family Farm Coalition weighs in

In the Department of Last-Minute Letters, here's one from the National Family Farm Coalition (PDF). Some juicy tidbits:

The Peru FTA, contrary to the claims of a few commodity organizations reflecting the interests of corporate agribusiness, will not benefit the vast majority of American farmers and ranchers... Despite concerns that growing agricultural imports could disadvantage American farmers and undermine food safety, agricultural issues were nearly entirely excluded from the May 10th deal between the White House and some congressional Democrats. Family farm organizations had urged that the free trade agreements be modestly modified to exclude sensitive agricultural products from coverage and to strengthen our food safety rules, but even these reasonable requests were not addressed.

...As harmful as the Peru FTA will be for American farmers and ranchers, the effects on Peruvian farmers could be more devastating. International grain traders have dumped below-cost corn into developing countries. Under NAFTA, over a million Mexican farmers and their families have been driven off the land due to U.S. dumping. Many of those displaced farmers have ended up in the U.S. Peruvian corn and rice farmers would likely face similar disasters as the U.S. starts dumping cheap commodities into the Peruvian market. Government agencies, international farm organizations, and development groups predict that the Peru trade deal will result in significant rural dislocation.

We'll be doing liveblogging from the Peru FTA debate-vote

So, get ready. The debate on the long awaited Bush NAFTA expansion to Peru may start as early as 11 am this morning, although it could be closer to or after noon. The Rules Committee has published its rule on the bill, which will allow for 3 hours of hot Rangel-on-McCrery-on-Michaud-on-Ron Paul(?) action. This final proceeding, during which no amendments are allowed, brings to a close the Fast Track Deathclock on Peru. AND THERE'S STILL TIME TO CALL YOUR MEMBER NOW!

The morning papers produced a flurry of commentary on the Peru FTA. (Josh Holland at Alternet has a round-up of commentary in recent days entitled "Do-Nothing Congress about to do something on NAFTA-style deal with Peru"). Today, Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post writes:

The House is set to vote today on a free-trade pact with Peru . What's not clear is why. The Bush administration, of course, supports trade deals with just about anyone, as it has made clear by promoting an accord with Colombia, where murdering a union activist entitles the killer to a get-out-of-jail-free card...

In general, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have avoided votes on issues that divide their party -- but not, evidently, when the issue is trade. The party's Wall Street backers, who always have friends on the Ways and Means Committee, want those votes to go forward, while many in labor adhere to the idea Clinton floated: that a strategic pause is needed to reassess the effects of such pacts and to implement some offsets to the leveling effects that globalization has had on the incomes of American workers...

But why the Democratic rush on trade? Globalization does pose real challenges to working- and middle-class Americans. Democrats should wait until they're in a position -- say, in 2009 -- to begin to restore some security to Americans' economic lives before they return to cutting trade deals. Their electoral prospects, and the nation's economic prospects, demand no less.

The San Jose Mercury News ran this op-editorial by environmentalist Ted Smith:

The international trade rules even limit our government's ability to investigate imported products when there is evidence of contamination, while simultaneously giving special rights to corporations to sue governments when environmental policies threaten their profits.

Does this make any sense? Of course not.

But what makes even less sense is that Congress, including some leading Democrats, are right on the verge - not of reforming this trading system - but instead extending it yet again.

Even though the public - from liberals to conservatives, from Democrats to Republicans - overwhelmingly supports trade policy reform, key Democratic leaders have decided to work with the Bush administration to pass a NAFTA-expansion deal with Peru. Similar deals with Panama, Colombia and Korea are in the pipeline.

Democratic leaders claim they got "major environmental concessions" from Bush in these latest deals. But these concessions barely changed the structure of the deals, and don't fix the most glaring environmental problems. For example, a major Peruvian environmental association recently wrote to Congress asking for a vote against this trade agreement because it is expected to lead to massive oil and gas exploitation of the fragile Amazon Basin. And there is still no right to know if products are green or not.

The free trade agreement with Peru, like the other NAFTA-style deals, takes us in the wrong direction and won't help us "be or buy green." In order to assure that our emerging "green consciousness" is encouraged to thrive, we must insist on stronger pro-environment provisions in all new trade agreements, starting with the pact with Peru.

And finally, the Denver Post writes about the pressure that Dems are receiving in that state from grassroots' groups:

But the trade group for smaller farms, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, said the agreement would hurt farmers by flooding the U.S. with inexpensive goods.

"We feel like most of these trade agreements pit one farm against another," said Benjamin Waters, government-relations director for Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, which represents about 20,000 farms in Colorado.

A trade group for independent cattle ranchers and feedlots said it's concerned that the agreement would not protect consumers. Beef producers in surrounding countries could ship cattle to a Peru slaughterhouse where it would be labeled as a product of Peru and shipped to the U.S., said Bill Bullard, chief executive of R-Calf United Stockgrowers of America, a Montana trade group with about 1,000 Colorado members.

Moreover, the agreement helps multinational corporations like Swift & Co. increase their market share, which gives them increased power, he said.

"They're seeking lower-cost production areas from which to procure live cattle beef," Bullard said.       

That hurts smaller U.S. producers, he said.       

UPDATE: 11/7, 12;20 PM. Looks like debate will begin around 4 pm now. Stay tuned. In the meantime, Sen. Edwards' campaign again raised the volume on the Peru FTA, putting more pressure on Clinton to come out:

The fact that the Peru trade deal is supported by a bipartisan group of insiders, including George Bush and senior officials from the first Clinton Administration – many of whom are now lobbyists, corporate lawyers, and business consultants – should be proof-positive of why members of Congress should join with me and oppose this deal. The benefit to corporate lobbyists from both sides of the political aisle will come only at the expense of hard-working families.

November 06, 2007

Peru FTA vote tomorrow!

The Peru FTA will likely come up for a full floor vote in the House of Representatives tomorrow morning, as H.R. 3688. For more info, check out our latest action alert, sent today. A few last-minute letters have been rolling in from organizations opposed to the FTA (including us at Public Citizen). These are all PDFs:

Also, a while back we put together a rebuttal of USTR's "Food Safety Myth Vs. Fact" document, which can be found here.

Finally, check out this article which ran in The Hill this morning, "Freshman Dems revolt on free trade":

Many freshman Democratic lawmakers are expected to oppose a free trade deal with Peru this week despite pressure from House leaders...

"There’s been a lot of pressure on the rank and file to support this deal," said Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine), who opposes the deal. "It's disappointing that Democratic leaders are not in sync with the American people."

Fearful that trade agreements will further add to a poisonous political environment — like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which was passed before the GOP routed the Democrats in the 1994 midterm election — some Democrats are furious they are being forced to vote on the measure.

"We have a base that does not think we're getting enough done. If we give them another dose of NAFTA … I’m left to wonder what [that does]," freshman Rep. Phil Hare (D-Ill.) said in a phone interview.

We'll be back with more after the vote tomorrow!

November 05, 2007

Every Vote Counts (No, Really!) - Democratic Rank and File Opposing Bush Trade Agreement

According to Jerome-Sherman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,

[The Peru Free Trade Agreement] could split the party this week, as the full House of Representatives considers the first vote on a free-trade agreement since the 2006 election, when Democrats won control of both chambers of Congress.

The party leadership supports a Peru pact because it contains stronger labor and environmental standards than past agreements. Yet many rank-and-file Democrats, including freshmen lawmakers who assailed the dangers of free trade for American workers on the campaign trail last year, are skeptical.

And in the Boston Globe this morning, op-ed, The hidden costs of free trade:

Despite the unsatisfactory record of NAFTA as a "free trade" model, the neoliberal economic policy has continued its march forward in the same direction. This week, the Democratic-led Congress will have its first vote on the Bush administration's latest NAFTA-like expansion, the US-Peru bilateral free trade agreement.

From my hometown paper, The Bergen Record (NJ!), Lawmakers disagree over Peru trade deal:

The United States-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement being considered by Congress continues the practice of overseas outsourcing and job erosion, among other labor and environmental concerns, says Rep. Steven Rothman, D-Fair Lawn, in a press release.

It's time to get the other Dems on the record! Find out how here.

Trade On The Trail #7

And now for this week's trade on the campaign trail.

Last Saturday former Sen. John Edwards announced his opposition the Peru Free Trade Agreement (FTA) - read our previous post.

Former Governor Mitt Romney announced his "new vision" for American trade policy, complete with powerpoint presentation.

What are some of the elements of the plan? According to a press release:

Governor Romney would seek to bring together nations committed to open markets and playing by the rules in the largest ever Free Trade Area, and go beyond traditional trade to promote high standards in areas critical to U.S. competitiveness. The Reagan Zone Of Economic Freedom would act as an alliance working together internationally, in the World Trade Organization and elsewhere to push reforms and work cooperatively in areas like labor and the environment.

And the Democratic National Committee's response says,

"Smooth talking Mitt Romney is in for a big surprise if he thinks the American people are looking to trade on Bush Republican for another next year," said Democratic National Committee spokesman Damien LaVera. "President Bush's failed trade and economic policies have hurt America's working families and we simply cannot afford four years of more of Bush Republicans exporting good jobs."

Trade also earned some mentions during Monday's MSNBC Democratic debate with Tim Russert and Brian Williams:

Edwards said,

We decided to try to keep the country safer by inspecting containers that come into this country, and who lobbied against it? The biggest company in America -- Wal-Mart. We've had trade deals that have cost us millions of jobs, and what did America get in return? We got millions of dangerous Chinese toys. These things are all evidence of a system that doesn't work.

And from Rep. Dennis Kucinich,

There's got to be people watching this at home saying, "Hey, you haven't talked about me losing my job because of NAFTA." Well, I'll cancel NAFTA and -- and -- and the WTO and have trade that's based on workers' rights, human rights and environmental quality principles.

And Sen. Hillary Clinton according to Reuters is still undecided on what's likely to be this Wednesday's Peru Free Trade Agreement vote:

As her party's front-runner, Clinton's decision could influence how many other Democrats view the Peru pact.

Clinton has called for the South Korean agreement to be renegotiated because of its auto provisions, which many Democrats believe are tilted in favor of Seoul.

She has also called for all U.S. trade agreements to be reviewed every five years.

And the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday on the importance of blogs and grassroots in second-tier presidential campaigns,

Inside the Keene Horseshoe Club's covered picnic area one summer Friday night, a hundred or so residents sat on lawn chairs and swatted mosquitoes as Gov. Richardson sweated. What was his position on trade pacts with Peru and Panama? asked one woman. Mr. Richardson looked nonplused. "Are they coming up?" (The House is likely to vote on the Peru agreement this month.)

When the Wall Street Journal says "this month," what they actually mean is this Wednesday.

That's it for this week. Stay tuned for more Trade On The Trail.

(Disclosure: Global Trade Watch has no preference among the candidates.)

November 02, 2007

350,000 indigenous people in Peru say "No FTA"

This week, the Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Amazon (AIDESEP) sent a letter to Congress (PDF in both English and Spanish) urging members to oppose the Peru FTA, which currently is scheduled to come up for a floor vote next Wednesday. AIDESEP, "Peru’s largest national organization of Amazonian indigenous communities, representing over 350,000 indigenous persons from 1,350 communities spanning 16 different linguistic groups and six regional organizations located in Peru’s Amazon," says:

"We are convinced that the FTA will give incentives for further and irreversible destruction of virgin rainforest, which will in turn increase global warming and displace our communities from their home territories. This is an absolutely unacceptable outcome for our planet, and particularly for the territory where our communities live, as we collectively work to reduce the threat of global warming.

"...the Peru FTA, if approved, would threaten every aspect of our livelihoods and sustainable development program. We are very preoccupied that the administration of President Alan García is auctioning off Peru’s Amazon at a breakneck speed to foreign firms ranging from Hunt Oil to Occidental Petroleum and beyond. Already by 2004, as the FTA was just being negotiated, only 15 percent of Peru’s Amazon was zoned for oil, gas and mining – today, that figure is near 70 percent. (See enclosed map for more detail.)

"...Provisions contained in the Peru FTA are directly incentivizing this massive takeover that is threatening our livelihoods and leading to irreversible destruction of virgin rainforest." [emphasis in original]

The map that is referred to is this one, which we've posted before as it tells a remarkably disturbing story.

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