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June 03, 2009

Meet the New USTR Website, Same as the Old USTR Website

President Obama's promises during the campaign to shift our trade policies got the base psyched. Yet in the first five months of the administration, the most oft-touted shift in the USTR's workplan (working "rigorously" to pass a Bush FTA doesn't count as a shift, and thankfully appears to be put off for the moment) has been the upgrade to a new website.

We've taken a look at the website, which is purtier and more consistent with other Obama campaign and admin webpages, and here are some things we noticed:

  • Up until yesterday, this link had Panama, Colombia, Korea as agreements in force. This was corrected this morning.
  • A lot of the specific trade agreement pages seem to have lost a lot of their material. For instance, look at this cached page on the Panama FTA, which includes advisory committee reports, and then compare with the new page. The old link that would have gone to the advisory pages doesn't work.
  • The Fast Track / Trade Promotion Authority page seems to be removed. (Maybe I'm wrong, but I couldn't find it.) If USTR is looking for content, we've got a book for them to post - The Rise and Fall of Fast Track Trade Authority!

We're going to be migrating to a new website in the coming months, and the years of planning for it already has me nervous. So, some bumps in the road seem inevitable. The thing that is most concerning about the USTR's new website is the lack of meaningful reference to Obama's trade commitments on the campaign - which would seem like the biggest update needed, with some of the full-throated advocacy of bad trade deals tamped down or removed.

So, here's my question for "Ask the Ambassador" (a new "interactive" feature for the website): When will the Bush talking points on trade come down, and the Obama talking points on trade go up? (Some illustrative examples suggested after the jump:)

Selected Campaign Statements By President Barack Obama on U.S. Trade and Globalization Policy (see a fuller list here)

Obama On the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and NAFTA Expansion:

  • “One of the first things I’ll do as President will be to call the Prime Minister of Canada and the President of Mexico and work with them to fix NAFTA. We’ll add binding obligations to protect the right to collective bargaining and other core labor standards recognized by the International Labor Organization. And I will add enforceable measures to NAFTA, the World Trade Organization (WTO), CAFTA [Central America Free Trade Agreement] and other Free Trade Agreements (FTA’s) currently in effect. Similarly, we should add binding environmental standards so that companies from one country cannot gain an economic advantage by destroying the environment. And we should amend NAFTA to make clear that fair laws and regulations written to protect citizens in any of the three countries cannot be overridden simply at the request of foreign investors.”1
  • “I voted against CAFTA and never supported NAFTA. NAFTA’s shortcomings were evident when signed and we must now amend the agreement to fix them. While NAFTA gave broad rights to investors, it paid only lip service to the rights of labor and the importance of environmental protection. Ten years later CAFTA – the Central American Free Trade Agreement – had many of the same problems, which is why I voted against it. We must add binding obligations to the NAFTA agreement to protect the right to collective bargaining and other core labor standards recognized by the International Labor Organization. Similarly, we must add binding environmental standards so that companies from one country cannot gain an economic advantage by destroying the environment. And we should amend NAFTA to make clear that fair laws and regulations written to protect citizens in any of the three countries cannot be overridden simply at the request of foreign investors.”2
  • “With regards to provisions in several FTAs that give foreign investors the right to sue governments
    directly in foreign tribunals, I will ensure that foreign investor rights are strictly limited and will fully
    exempt any law or regulation written to protect public safety or promote the public interest. And I will never agree to granting foreign investors any rights in the U.S. greater than those of Americans.”7

Obama On the WTO:

  • “I do not support trade efforts that undermine important federal, state and local policies and long-time practices that have been designed and implemented to benefit American families. As such, before expanding GATS to other domestic sectors, I believe we must have a thorough assessment of how such a move would affect the existing practices and goals of U.S. federal, state and local governments.”3

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Comments

Rodolfo

Hi! I was reading your review... I wanted to ask, Was not NAFTA a FTA negotiated during Bill Clinton's administration? It seems to me that it is logical that a country strategy is to support it, both republicans and democrats.

Todd Tucker

Yes, Clinton finished NAFTA, and my group and Obama opposed it, on the basis that it had harmful investor rights provisions while not adequately protecting workers, consumers and the environment.

Don Juan of Austria

Rodolfo-

NAFTA and the following trade agreements have been a disaster for this country, making the rich richer and wiping out factories and towns across the country. Most Americans expressed skepticism then, and our elites went ahead and did it anyway. The sooner we get back to a trade policy that helps working Americans, the better.

Don Juan of Austria


Gerald-

Canada excluded U.S. workers from its government procurement commitments, and now you are complaining when the U.S. does the same? Sounds extremely hypocritical to me. The Canadians are being so hypocritical here that it is astounding.

And how can Canadians "lose jobs" because they don't get U.S. government contracts that didn't even exist until the stimulus?

Burger King

I am so sick of the political punditry and the business shows on tv spewing crazy garbage about how free trade is such a wonderful thing for everyone?? What part of wiping out entire industries and putting millions of people in the unemployment line is so wonderful?? Then you'll hear them say...well they can train for a new job or we'll give them job placement assistance etc...What a bunch of nonsense! They pretend as if a blue collar worker is suddenly going to go to law school or become a nuclear scientist!! The sad truth is the only jobs these people end up left with are working at fast food joints,pumping gas or stocking shelves at a grocery store. This isn't healthy for our economy or our country to have a trade policy that only rewards wealth and not work!

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