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« Liveblogging the Peru FTA Senate vote | Main | Senate Dems join GOP to approve another NAFTA expansion »

December 04, 2007

Liveblogging the Peru FTA Senate vote, Take II

5:13 pm: The Hill has a story that highlights Sen. Harry Reid's (D-Nev.) opposition:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was one of 16 Democrats voting against the deal.

“It is very unfortunate that the Bush administration’s only policy towards Latin America has been to negotiate free trade agreements,” Reid said. He added that he “reluctantly” opposes the Peru deal because it “reflects major improvements from the previous model.”

“But I still see many holes in U.S. trade policy that need to be filled,” Reid added.

3:29 pm: Full analysis forthcoming, but the majority of leadership and freshmen opposed (minus not surprisingly Ben Cardin from Maryland and VERY surprisingly, Jim Webb of Virginia, hitherto MISTER Inequality). None of the candidates for president even voted, including Clinton, Obama and McCain, who were for; and Biden and Dodd, who were against.

2:54 PM: Passes 77-18.

1:22 pm: There is a bit of life here at the liveblog. There's an agreement to not have more debate and just come in for a vote at 2:15 pm. So we'll know within the hour.

11:42 am: Yeah, we're asleep at the wheel, sorry. Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) just said "Peru is no ordinary country, and the Peru FTA is no ordinary trade agreement." Given Baucus' relentless advocacy for expanding NAFTA to additional countries in opposition to his party's base, Max Baucus is no ordinary senator.

So, we didn't miss much from the Senate debate, as it turns out, which will begin anew shortly after 10 am, and the vote is still scheduled for 2:15 pm.

A couple of things worth pointing out about yesterday's floor speeches:

  • Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.), who voted right on CAFTA and wrong on the Oman FTA, argued that: "coca production, a major concern of ours with respect to Peru, has decreased dramatically, thanks in large part to the eradication, interdiction, and other efforts to develop economic opportunities for the Peruvian people." He appears to be talking about in relation to the 1990s, but as this estimate by the Department of Justice shows, "Coca cultivation in Bolivia and Peru has the potential to increase significantly and to replace some of the decreased cultivation in Colombia: Cocaine production in Bolivia and Peru is at a much lower level than in Colombia. However, illegal coca cultivation has increased to its highest level in 5 years." And as the Economist reported, social movements in Peru are mobilizing to promote even further coca cultivation.
  • In fact, trade policies are never going to substitute for a development or anti-drug policy. As the New York Times reported in 2004 on U.S. efforts to use trade policy to undermine coca production, '
    • After 55 years of packing Eastern Washington asparagus, the Del Monte Foods factory here moved operations to Peru last year, eliminating 365 jobs. The company said it could get asparagus cheaper and year-round there.

      As the global economy churns, nearly every sector has a story about American jobs landing on cheaper shores. But what happened to the American asparagus industry is rare, the farmers here say, because it became a casualty of the government's war on drugs.

      To reduce the flow of cocaine into this country by encouraging farmers in Peru to grow food instead of coca, the United States in the early 1990's started to subsidize a year-round Peruvian asparagus industry, and since then American processing plants have closed and hundreds of farmers have gone out of business.

      One result is that Americans are eating more asparagus, because it is available fresh at all times. But the growth has been in Peruvian asparagus supported by American taxpayers...

      'The irony is that they didn't plow under the coke to plant asparagus in Peru,'' said John Bakker, executive director of the Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board. ''If you look at that industry in Peru and where it's growing, it has nothing to do with coca leaf growers becoming normal farmers. Coca leaf is grown in the highlands. The asparagus is near sea level.''
  • It's not for nuttin that the Washington Office on Latin America and our office argued that the coca-trade connection is the opposite of the one Salazar argued on the floor yesterday: NAFTA-style trade policies lead to RURAL DISPLACEMENT, which means immigration or pursuit of illegal drug cultivation.
  • These and other arguments (about food safety and ag policy more generally) are made forcefully by a letter sent yesterday by family farm groups to the Senate on the Peru FTA.

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