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:
- The Bush administration's full throated defense of NAFTA is still prominently displayed, even though Obama himself does not support NAFTA. (See below: "I voted against CAFTA and never supported NAFTA.")
- Pure cheerleading on the Colombia FTA, and no mention of Obama's human rights concerns anywhere. (Let's just watch that video again, shall we?)
- 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