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Change to Win and Grassroots groups respond to deal

Workers Oppose Bush-Congress Trade Deal

The following is a statement by Anna Burger, Chair of Change to Win:

WASHINGTON DC -- “On behalf of the six million members of Change to Win unions and its Leadership Council, we are disappointed that House Democratic leaders joined with the Bush Administration yesterday to announce a trade deal that is more free than fair.

The agreement does not represent the basis for the type of new U.S. trade policy that this nation desperately needs. Despite improvements in labor and environmental standards, workers remain at risk because the proposal fails to address how to protect U.S. jobs or create new ones. It undermines our prevailing wage and Buy America laws. And it hands foreign firms operating here more privileges over U.S. companies. For working America, that is not a deal.

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Teamsters: Deal "Sells Out American Workers"


Official Statement By Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa (Washington, D.C.) –

Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa released the following statement today about new trade policy guidelines forged by the Bush administration and House Democratic leaders in Congress:

To my great disappointment, Democratic leaders in the House joined with the Bush administration yesterday to announce a trade “deal” that sells out American workers.

I am baffled as to why there is such eagerness to give this president -- who is unwilling to enforce current labor and trade laws -- a victory by continuing to pass more NAFTA/CAFTA-like trade models that send good-paying jobs overseas. 

The deal, which is wrongly dubbed “A New Trade Policy For America,” does nothing to protect American jobs or help create more jobs at home. The race to the bottom will only continue.

Therefore, this “deal” is NO DEAL for the Teamsters or American workers, and we will fight like hell to oppose this shortsighted agreement.

There are many members of Congress who know the reality of having their communities destroyed and broken as a result of bad trade and globalization policies. So I question why there was so much urgency to have a “deal,” especially without the support and backing of all of organized labor and the workers we represent.

We are pleased that these negotiations have resulted in enforceable labor and environmental chapters, including making core International Labor Organization standards enforceable. But this will not prevent the offshoring of jobs, nor will it lead to the creation of jobs. The Democratic majority should have delivered more to American workers.

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AFL-CIO, Steelworkers and Sen. Sherrod Brown statements

Statement by AFL-CIO President John Sweeney on U.S. Trade Policy Developments May 11, 2007

America's trade policy has been broken for decades.  Living standards have been depressed.  Families have been squeezed.  Our trade deals have cost millions of jobs and encouraged exploitation of workers and the environment. 

Read Sweeney, USWA, and Brown statements after the jump

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Skinning Cats with Prison Labor

Congress Daily's Martin Vaughan reported today on a press call with U.S. trade officials who made two things very clear: First, no one should expect that the promised FTA fixes will be incorporated into the text of the agreement. To wit,

They said only that those changes will not be made through a "quote, side letter, endquote," and that they will be "legally binding." Said one official: "There are multiple ways to skin a cat ... To the extent that a side letter is not legally binding, it will not be a side letter."

When is a side letter not a side letter? Don't remember that one from my Zen koan class... I do remember this report, however, which Brandon, Alyssa and I wrote a few years ago showing how sideCat_skin_2 letters and side deals are a very, very stupid way of accomplishing any policy objectives.

Martin also reports that the lovely folks at the National Association of Manufacturers have gotten a looksie at the final language and are still not at all worried about the labor text - a bad sign if you are a LABORER of any kind.

First, according to NAM, the "deal" doesn't obligate countries to abide by the ILO core labor rights conventions themselves, only a watered down 1998 "declaration" on the conventions. Second, only federal laws apply, so (breathe easy) things like U.S. prison labor and Southern states' "right to work" laws "will not be subject to challenge." (Gee, I really hope a Peruvian state or locality doesn't pass some kind of law legalizing child labor in the state!) And to put just a little rotten icing on the rotten cake, negotiators agreed to not eliminate an FTA provision "that gives countries leeway not to enforce labor laws at their own 'discretion.'"

Is the room spinning, or did a few Democrats just sign up for something that does not sound that sweet, or that, well, Democratic?

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Bloomberg TV covering "deal"

Shortly after 2 pm EST. You can watch here. Special guest: our own Lori Wallach.

UPDATE: On the show, the host gave Deputy USTR Karan Bhatia several opportunities to respond to two issues of major concern for fair trade groups:
1. Is this a "deal" on just Peru and Panama, or will it extend to Colombia and South Korea? Bhatia did not unequivocally state that the deal was limited to Peru and Panama. Similar to some other press statements over the last 24 hours, it seems that the line here is getting about as blurry as it can get, with different folks saying different things.
Nailslips 2. Will the amendments outlined in the "deal" be written into the core text of totally renegotiated agreements? Here too, Bhatia was non-commital, saying the first task is to "share" with the potential FTA partner countries what has been discussed in Washington.

Neither of these things is making the "deal" look too good. In Lori's words from the show, the partial fixes in the "deal" look like "icing on a rotten cake."

UPDATE 2: You can watch the video HERE.

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Levin: No "Need to Act" on Fast Track

Trade Subcommittee Chair Sandy Levin is quoted by Reuters as saying:

"The problem (with the Doha round of world trade talks) is not the lack of trade promotion authority. The problem is the stalemate over agriculture and the lack of progress over other issues," Rep. Sander Levin, a Michigan Democrat, told Reuters...

"I told Pascal Lamy he was wrong ... Trade promotion authority has nothing to do with the problems on agriculture, the lack of progress on non-tariff barriers, the lack of progress on services" and other issues, Levin said. "Right now, there's nothing that we need to act on for TPA," he said.

At the same time, according to the New York Times, Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) "said he could imagine" giving Bush Fast Track authority for Doha. [NOTE: This was in the print version, and is longer on the website.]

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Democratic process?

Here's a few more things I thought I'd point out. Molly Hennessy-Fiske at The Los Angeles Times reports that

Rep. Betty Sutton of Ohio, one of 71 freshman Democrats to sign a letter earlier this year urging Rangel not to compromise 'fair trade' principles, was 'frustrated' that she and other new legislators were not consulted about the compromise, her staff said. Six House Democrats, including Linda T. Sanchez of Lakewood, sent a letter late Thursday to the chairman of the party caucus, Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, asking him and other caucus leaders not to endorse the new policy until they reviewed the fine print.

And Jim Abrams at The Associated Press reports that

A half-dozen House Democrats with strong labor ties, watching the news conference from the back of the room, later expressed strong dissatisfaction with the process. "The strongest voices for workers and the environment were not included" in the negotiations and were not informed of the deal, said Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio. "I'm very disappointed that Speaker Pelosi held a press conference before meeting with the caucus," said Rep. Michael Michaud, D-Maine. "In a democratic process Democrats ought to know."

Finally, Inside U.S. Trade reports that Rangel plans to pass the deals with a minority of the Democratic majority and a majority of the GOP minority:

Rangel said the agreement as now outlined would garner sufficient Democratic votes to pass the Peru and Panama agreement, though not a majority of the caucus. Asked if Pelosi’s backing of the deal would make the votes on these agreements a leadership vote that would be formally whipped, he said that would not be necessary because there would be sufficient votes for passage. He said an issue only rises to a leadership vote if the vote is a tight one.

Note that on the LA Times piece: instead of "71 freshmen Democrats," this should read "71 freshmen and senior Democrats," in reference to an April letter. A January letter by just freshmen garnered 39 member signatures — over 95 percent of the class.

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Blog Round up on "deal"

Wonkette's one-liner, however, is pretty priceless: "White House caves, will sign trade deals that allow overseas workers two bathroom breaks per day."

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Labor process? Labor content?

Reports are streaming in constantly to our headquarters, and I thought I would share two very interesting findings from Inside U.S. Trade (sorry, not linkable).

First, on whether labor had been consulted:

Both Pelosi and Rangel acknowledged that they had gotten no feedback from labor groups on the agreement and Rangel said he understood that the AFL-CIO was still seeking the reaction from its union president. But Pelosi emphasized that she and Rangel had consulted with labor at the beginning of the process and insisted that the agreement announced at 6 pm had literally been reached that afternoon. But an opponent of the deal expressed doubts that the press conference involving Schwab and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson along with the senior members of the House leadership, as well as the leadership of the New Democrat Coalition, could have been brought together within an hour’s notice. This source speculated that the announcement might have been made on May 10 to head off an expected announcement by the Teamsters that they will oppose the deal.

Second, on whether the labor "deal" will even be in the agreement's text:

The agreement is to have “legally binding” labor and environmental standards in FTAs, but there is no consensus on whether that means reopening those FTAs already signed. House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee Chairman Sander Levin (D-MI) said he does not see how there can be a legally binding obligation without reopening already signed agreements. But Schwab said for Peru and Colombia, the U.S. could insert the obligations into the implementing language… Similarly, Ranking Ways and Means Committee Member Jim McCrery (R-LA) said the threshold of legally binding could be met by either having Peru reopen its agreement or finding another way.

We'll be posting more as we get it...

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Deal or no deal morning news roundup

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More on deal...

Will be posting more later but in the meantime check out www.mydd.com and www.davidsirota.com.

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Clinton trade official to be Obama's trade advisor

Bloomberg reports on Sen. Barack Obama's trade team, and it's not going to excite fair traders:

Three academics -- Austan Goolsbee, 37, a University of Chicago professor and columnist for The New York Times, Jeffrey Liebman, 39, a pension and poverty expert at Harvard University, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and David Cutler, 41, a Harvard health economist -- form the core of Obama's economic team...

A trio of seasoned Washington hands bolsters the academics: Karen Kornbluh, policy director in Obama's Senate office; Daniel Tarullo, a professor at Georgetown University in Washington, and a former senior economic adviser in the Clinton administration; and Michael Froman, the chief of staff for former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin who now works with his old boss at Citigroup Inc...

The tough task of helping to develop a trade policy that avoids overt protectionism may fall to Tarullo, a 54-year-old trade expert. Tarullo ``escapes easy labeling,'' said former Clinton chief of staff John Podesta, president of the Center for American Progress, a self-described progressive advocacy group in Washington. ``That makes him especially valuable in finding new solutions to a new set of thorny problems.''

Quien es este Daniel Tarullo? Deborah James and I took a look at his recent work over at Alternet. He is also a Clinton administration trade official (i.e. the team that did NAFTA, WTO and China PNTR) who had previously advised the Mexican government on NAFTA.

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What's the Bush deal?

This from over the wires... we'll be updating when we know more...

***  Media Advisory  ***

Pelosi, Administration Officials, and Bipartisan Congressional Leaders to Make Major Announcement on Free Trade Agreements Today

Washington, D.C. - Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Bush Administration officials, bipartisan Congressional leaders to make an announcement on free trade agreements today, Thursday, May 10, at 6 p.m.

WHO:          Speaker Nancy Pelosi
                   Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson, Jr.
                   U.S. Trade Representative Susan C. Schwab
                   Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus
                   House Ways & Means Chairman Charles B. Rangel
                   House Ways & Means Ranking Member Jim McCrery
                   Members of House Leadership
                   Bipartisan Members of the House               

WHAT:        Press Conference on Free Trade Agreements
WHEN:        Thursday, May 10, at 6 p.m.

WHERE:      H-122, The Capitol, Washington, DC             

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Public opinion on China trade


If you weren't in Washington yesterday, you missed a huge policy wonk throw down. That's right: 1 hearing room, 3 committees, 2 panels, 10 expert witnesses, and at least 2 countries (China and Japan) in the congressional cross-hairs for their "currency manipulation." Summary: we still have no idea what Congress plans to actually do about China and Japan currency issues, nor the trade deficit more generally - hardly a spring chicken on its 32nd birthday. And Detroit thinks Japan is just as much a problem as China, while the Japanese-funded Peterson Institute thinks not. END TRANSMISSION.

While there are certainly pros and cons of acting on the trade deficit in different ways, which I have and will be continuing to explore in the blog, it's clear that the American public wants and demands SOME change of course. Looking just for a second on the polls on the China trade situation alone:

  • An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll from May 2005 found that China was the country that the most Americans thought was currently or would become a serious competitor to the US. Following the same link, you'll find a 2003 CNN poll that shows most Americans believe China's trade practices are unfair.
  • A 2000 poll by Gallup found that twice as many Americans thought China trade would hurt U.S. workers as would help.
  • A review of polls (pdf) on US-China trade from the 1990s by the University of Maryland found that most Americans opposed granting China PNTR status, based largely on human rights and democratization concerns. 

Interestingly, despite this general rejection of China's record on human, labor and environmental rights, an April 2006 poll by LA Times and Bloomberg found that about twice as many Americans thought that China should be allowed to set its own currency policy at its own pace rather than U.S. policy-makers trying to force China to reform. Could it be that Americans want our government to get active "manipulating" (read: having ANY policy around) our own currency? We'll continue following the developments here.

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Wyoming signals change all over

Gary Trauner has the distinction of being an almost-Congressman, having come close to defeating six-term incumbent Barbara Cubin in 2006, and of being one of an estimated 400 Jews who live in Wyoming.


He also wrote How Free is Free Trade for the West? at NewWest.net and criticizes the corporate protectionism that is the basis of our current failed trade deals:

I find it interesting that free trade proponents argue that protecting workers or the environment or the rule of law limits the benefits of such agreements.  Yet, how many people are aware of the fact that NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, contains copyright and intellectual property profit protections for corporations, yet no real protections for the people or environment this Agreement will affect.  Amazingly, NAFTA also contains protections for foreign corporations that let these companies sue our government; they argue their case not in open court, but in secret panels in front of groups like the World Trade Organization, which then can award unlimited damages to these foreign companies paid for by the taxpayers of the United States.

When fair trade is a winning issue in Wyoming, which is by many measures one of the most conservative strongholds in the country, it's pretty clear that a departure from our current course of NAFTA-like policies is imminent.

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Why is not killing dolphins so controversial?

The U.S. Court of Appeals of the Ninth Circuit recently issued a ruling on dolphin-safe tuna — an issue that has been cropping up in trade circles since 1990.

The background is this: under U.S. law, tuna labeled "dolphin-safe" cannot be caught with purse-seine nets, which can maim or drown dolphins. In the early 1990s under the pre-WTO General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), Mexico and several other nations challenged this law, and though this challenge was settled outside of the system, a GATT panel found that "the US could not embargo imports of tuna products from Mexico simply because Mexican regulations on the way tuna was produced did not satisfy US regulations."

In response to Mexican threats of a WTO challenge against U.S. dolphin-safe labeling policies, which have been coming on and off since 1995, the Clinton administration weakened key provisions of the dolphin-safe law in the mid-1990s. Then, on New Years' Eve of 2002, the Bush administration's Department of Commerce issued a finding that weakened dolphin-safe labeling, in effect allowing the use of purse-seine nets still widespread in Mexico and other Latin American countries. As BNA reports (sorry, not linkable), this finding would "allow tuna-exporting nations such as Mexico to label their tuna as dolphin-safe even if caught by purse-seine nets that entrap and drown dolphins as long as no dolphins were observed to be killed or maimed."

After a long legal battle, two weeks ago the U.S. Ninth Circuit appeals court ruled against the Department of Commerce's finding, saying only Congress has the authority to change the law regarding dolphin-safe labeling. It seems doubtful Congress would do this, leaving open the question: will Mexico follow through with its threats and sue the U.S. under the WTO to force a change in our law? If so, there's sure to be outrage over the idea that an international body could overturn a domestic law not only passed democratically in Congress, but also validated by the courts after attempts to weaken it by both the Clinton and Bush administrations.

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Hawai’i Votes to Take the Power Back

Following the footsteps of Maryland and Rhode Island, the Hawai’i State Legislature passed a bill (all three links are to PDFs) on Friday that would restore the authority of state legislators to set procurement policy in trade agreements, instead of the governor. This is the second year in a row that Hawai’in legislators are demanding a more democratic way of negotiating trade agreements. Last year they passed a similar bill, which Gov. Lingle (R) vetoed.

This year, the stakes are even higher. The Lieutenant Governor put out a nasty op-ed in the Honolulu Advertiser singling out the bill’s potential to be “restrictive and damaging to Hawai’i’s economy” and claiming it would “improperly curtail the executive authority of the governor.” Fortunately, the legislature wasn’t scared off by these bogus claims and voted to restore their authority over procurement policy.

With the Fast Track expiration on the horizon, states have clearly showed their opposition for these failed trade policies through bills and resolutions calling for both state and federal-level reforms to this archaic trade policy mechanism. Legislatures in five states have passed these resolutions, and there are more to come. Let’s hope that Congress gets the picture and starts including states in the trade negotiating process.

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USTR Hedges Its Bets and Loses Big

In an unprecedented turn of events, the USTR announced on Friday that the United States is initiating the process to withdraw the gambling service sector from WTO jurisdiction, after losing a WTO case brought by Antigua. This is an embarrassing decision for USTR, but it's a great victory in our ongoing work to make sure democratically-enacted laws aren’t eroded by "trade" deals that enforce their rules through an international tribunal that’s neither open nor accountable to the people.


For the past several years, state officials concerned about trade agreement rules becoming a backdoor form of international preemption have been sounding the alarm particularly about the GATS (the service-sector agreement under which we signed up gambling to WTO rules).

Good news aside, let’s not lose sight of the fact that because USTR made a huge error in 1995 by signing up a sensitive service sector, it must now negotiate with other countries that want compensation for the lost market opportunity. What will we now offer to our trading partners in return? Unbelievably, USTR is still planning to offer entirely new service sectors to WTO jurisdiction in the current Doha Round of negotiations, most notably the higher education sector (as if corporate control of education hadn't already produced enough problem! I hear my student loans calling...) For more info on the Antigua case, check out our press release.

You’d think a costly mistake like the gambling one would be lesson enough for USTR to exercise some caution before signing up our highly regulated domestic service sectors to WTO rules. If you want to give them an extra nudge to make sure they don't, call your state legislators and tell them USTR shouldn't be making any more WTO service sector commitments without consulting the states.

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Rangel has surprises in store, says mentor

Eyes on Trade has our eyes on Charlie Rangel. If you do too, you'll be very interested in this profile in the New York Sun.

One of the big stories percolating in Washington is the emergence of Rep. Charles Rangel of Harlem as a leader of the moderate faction within the Democratic Party on international trade, an issue that may rival the war as the most fraught of the coming election campaign...

That would be in line with a growing perception of Mr. Rangel as a legislator who can work across the aisle or across rifts within his own party. One of his political mentors, Robert Morgenthau, has for months been cautioning editors around town not to sell Mr. Rangel short, saying, as he did to this reporter last night, "He's going to reach out — and has reached out — to see if he can't work with the Republicans. … He understands that he represents everybody. ... He wants to get things done for the United States."...

Mr. Morgenthau, the longtime Manhattan district attorney, has known Mr. Rangel since they worked together as federal prosecutors in the 1960s. He speaks glowingly of the chairman, describing a dedication to the interests of the nation over any "special interest."

For those thinking that the heightened partisanship in Washington would derail Mr. Rangel's efforts to forge agreement, Mr. Morgenthau had a message: "Charlie's going to surprise them."

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Civil society putting Big Pharma on the defense

Around the world, news is streaming in that civil society - and even governmental pressure - is putting Big Pharma on the defensive, deepening the people's revolt that David talked about here.

First off, Brazil. According to the Working Group on Intellectual Property (GTPI) from the Brazilian Network for the Integration of Peoples (REBRIP), the Brazilian federal government has decided

to issue a compulsory license for the antiviral drug, Efavirenz, whose patent is current held by Merck Sharp & Dohme. This historical decision reinforces the efforts of civil society groups fighting for access to medicines, for the sustainability of public health policies, such as universal and unlimited access to antiretroviral medicines used in the treatment of HIV/AIDS, and for the strengthening of the Brazilian public health care system, the Unique Health System (SUS).

Next stop, Thailand. Here, too, civil society is successfully pressuring governments to issue compulsory licenses for life-saving drugs. According to Congress Daily (sorry, not linkable):

U.S. officials added Thailand to the Priority Watch List in their Special 301 report, partly because of Thailand's handling of compulsory licenses it issued to import generic versions of two HIV/AIDS drugs and a heart medication ... Health activists and advocates of fewer restrictions on the use of intellectual property criticized the move. One of them, James Love, executive director of Knowledge Ecology International, said, "The sanctioning of countries for using legitimate and important flexibilities in the [WTO] agreement brings shame to all U.S. citizens who are increasingly seen in Thailand and elsewhere as bullies and hypocrites."

And, final stop, the U.S. of A. Here, public health groups and fair trade activists' pressure on House Democratic leadership may be leading to a groundbreaking reversal of the "patent protectionism" long practiced by the Clinton and Bush administrations in trade deals. Says Mark Drajem of Bloomberg (not linkable):

The negotiators also want to remove requirements that drug patents be extended if the companies face long delays in getting approval to sell their products in those countries, they said. The proposals, if adopted as part of a larger package of changes, would mean House Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel and the White House would cut provisions the U.S. insisted upon when those trade agreements were being negotiated... Health activists back the changes, saying they will mean cheaper life-saving medicines for AIDS victims and others in poor nations, according to Rohit Malpani of Oxfam America.

Needless to say, Big Pharma is not happy about these changes, which is why it's crucial that we continue to make our voices heard by clicking here.

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Apostasy in trade economics land

Alan S. Blinder, Princeton economics professor (as well as former Fed dude, and former Clinton administration booster for NAFTA and WTO) has written a piece for Sunday's Washington Post about his awakening to the new dimensions of trade policy in the 21st century:

I'm a free trader down to my toes. Always have been. Yet lately, I'm being treated as a heretic by many of my fellow economists. Why? Because I have stuck my neck out and predicted that the offshoring of service jobs from rich countries such as the United States to poor countries such as India may pose major problems for tens of millions of American workers over the coming decades. In fact, I think offshoring may be the biggest political issue in economics for a generation.

When I say this, many of my fellow free-traders react with a mixture of disbelief, pity and hostility. Blinder, have you lost your mind? (Answer: I think not.) Have you forgotten about the basic economic gains from international trade? (Answer: No.) Are you advocating some form of protectionism? (Answer: No !) Aren't you giving aid and comfort to the enemies of free trade? (Answer: No, I'm trying to save free trade from itself.)

The reason for my alleged apostasy is that the nature of international trade is changing before our eyes. We used to think, roughly, that an item was tradable only if it could be put in a box and shipped. That's no longer true. Nowadays, a growing list of services can be zapped across international borders electronically. It's electrons that move, not boxes. We're all familiar with call centers, but electronic service delivery has already extended to computer programming, a variety of engineering services, accounting, security analysis and a lot else. And much more is on the way.

It's worth reading the whole piece, where Blinder goes into how technology has facilitated offshoring, and how the integration of new pools of labor from China and the former USSR have - in his view - changed conditions dramatically. (If you're interested in the dimensions of services trade and policy, you can check out the work we've been trying to call attention to for 15 years, over here.)

What is striking in these arguments, as Dean Baker has pointed out, is the concern for the most highly skilled workers, while over a decade ago, Blinder argued (and appears to still argue) that lower skill, lower wage workers should be subjected to race-to-the-bottom competition. And as for this particular wave of technological change, that's been going since the 1970s, and we've known about the fall of the USSR for, uhm, well, since Scorpion did this song way back when (back before we had NAFTA, WTO, etc.)

Better late than never, I guess. But from the way Blinder is getting pushed around in the profession, it looks like most economists have bought their ticket to destination: never.

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The last word on the anti-Colombia FTA protest (video)

Just wanted to share with you on this fine Saturday morning some of our video footage of last Wednesday's protest. (See our previous posts for background information, photos, and press/blog coverage.) We've posted several brief clips to YouTube: one including some of our chants, one including some remarks by the speakers, and one of the crowd giving Uribe a noisy sendoff before he enters the building. Also, here's one of a protester giving Uribe an earful about how corrupt his administration is.

But perhaps the most powerful is this one: John Jairo Garces, whose father was murdered by paramilitaries, confronting Uribe while holding a photo of his father's body. Sorry, it's in Spanish, but the emotion of the moment transcends language barriers:

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More news and views on Asia trade

There was a good response to my piece on China trade from yesterday. This is an issue where there is a lot of churning, and a lot of debate about whether the U.S. should respond to the China/Asia -trade imbalance in a passive or active way; and if active, whether multilaterally, bilaterally, or unilaterally; and if unilateral, whether this should be done with pressures on "our prices" (i.e. address U.S. dollar overvaluation) or "their prices" (i.e. try to address China yuan undervaluation).

Tom Palley makes the argument here that we should be pressuring China on "their prices" and that China should be playing by WTO rules. But I think Tom really hits the nail on the head when he says:

In retrospect the 2000 U.S. decision to permanently open its markets to China seems poorly conceived. That decision was driven by manic optimism about globalization that pushed a biased benefit—cost calculus that ignored economic and political reality. The Clinton Administration naively argued that simply exposing China to market forces would transform it into a democratic ally, while U.S. multinationals lobbied heavily on China’s behalf seeing it as a profitable offshore production location.

Indeed, the debate around China PNTR is one instance in the last decade where Democrats (and Republican evangelicals and others that had their own concerns about religious freedom in China) really lost their way. Looking at the vote count today, it's kind of astounding and depressing how many members crossed that line that never should have. And there's no shortage of members today making all sorts of tortured justifications for the vote.

Since I'm on the topic, why not explore how the 2008 presidential candidates voted on China PNTR? (By the way, this will be regular features on Eyes on Trade.) Oh, and what the heck, we'll also look at the party leaderships as well.

Continue reading "More news and views on Asia trade" »

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More on that protest...

Just wanted to share with you some other folks' coverage and thoughts on Uribe and the protest we held yesterday (to recap, see previous posts for our own thoughts, here for photos, and here for our press release).

Finally, here is some video footage of the protesters confronting Uribe, also from the Student Trade Justice Campaign. The video is ok, but the audio gives me chills. Hope you're not sick of all this yet, there will be more coming soon.

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What If?! The U.S. Had Balanced Trade With China??

When I was growing up, one of my favorite comic books was Marvel Comics' "What If?!" series. The basic premise of the series was to explore what would have happened had certain comic books heroes died sooner (or lived longer) than they did in the comics' normal running narratives. "What If?!" also386pxwhatif1 occasionally delved into non-comics history, exploring alternative histories if World War II had turned out differently, and the like. In short, it was a pretty fun (and pretty heady) Saturday night plan for a nerdy 10 year old.

Our friends over at the Economic Policy Institute have a long-running series of trade policy papers that are very much in the best of the "What If?!" vein, except they have the advantage of being not about guys running around in spandex but about REAL STUFF.

In his latest paper on U.S.-China trade, EPI's Rob Scott looks at how many more U.S. manufacturing jobs could have been supported had the U.S. had balanced trade with China over the 1997-2006 period, rather than the over $237 billion trade deficit we have currently. He puts the number at a whopping 2,166,000 jobs - the bulk of that for the years since Congress granted "permanent normal trade relations" to China at the end of the Clinton administration. California, Texas, New York, Illinois and Pennsylvania missed out on the most job opportunities, while New Hampshire, North Carolina, California, Massachusetts and Rhode Island lost out on the most job opportunities as a share of its total employment. Check out the paper to see how your state stacks up.

Rob's "What If?!" work is very valuable, because balanced trade should be the norm to which we compare the current economic nightmare. In the words of my old prof Ajit Singh,

an efficient manufacturing sector is one that “not only satisfies the demands of consumers at home at least cost, but is also able to sell enough of its products abroad to pay for nation’s import requirements.” He adds the qualification that these objectives should be met at “socially acceptable levels of output, employment and the exchange rate.” See Ajit Singh, “Manufacturing and deindustrialization,” in John Eatwell, et. al., The New Palgrave: A Dictionary of Economics, Volume 3, (London: Macmillan, 1987.)

Knowing that over 2 million more good U.S. manufacturing jobs could have been created in a world of balanced China trade, how could anyone say that our current trade policies are "socially acceptable"?? To say so would sound like some comic book bunk.

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Photos: protesters confront Colombian president Uribe

Today's protest was quite an event, as several hundred people stood outside in the DC heat to speak out against the Colombia FTA and the Uribe regime. Workers, students, Afro-Colombians, labor and human rights activists, and more demonstrated for two hours, holding photographs of murdered Colombian labor organizers and signs bearing messages like "No FTA with human rights abusers," and chanting in both English and Spanish. (For instance: "Hey, hey, Uribe, how many workers died today?") Per the previous post, there were also a wide variety of speakers, and members of the Student Trade Justice Campaign staged a "die-in," braving the heat and lying on the sidewalk in body bags.

The protesters had the opportunity to confront Uribe himself outside, and several emotional exchanges ensued. Check out some of my photos from the afternoon - click on any of the photos below for a larger version, or see many more photos at our Flickr page. We also had a video camera on site, and hopefully we'll be able to post some footage soon.

UPDATE: See our full press release here, with quotes from each of the speakers.

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"No Colombia FTA!" protest in DC

Right now, Colombian President Álvaro Uribe is giving a talk at the Center for American Progress here in DC.  As he speaks, a throng of protesters (including human and labor rights activists and students) is picketing outside, sending the message that the Bush administration should not be making deals with human rights abusers like Uribe.

We've already posted on how Uribe's administration has stood virtually idle amidst the murder of hundreds of trade unionists.  The Uribe government has also been rocked by multiple scandals related to the links of close Uribe associates with right-wing paramilitary groups responsible for the majority of the human rights abuses in Colombia.  Many of Uribe's political allies, advisors and cabinet members have resigned or been arrested, including his Foreign Minister, his intelligence director, and Senators that are key supporters of his in the Colombian Congress. Additionally, leaked information from the CIA revealed in March that the head of the Colombian army has colluded with paramilitary groups.

Despite these scandals rocking the Uribe administration, the Bush administration went ahead and signed a "free trade" agreement with Colombia and is now asking Congress to consider approving it.  In response, a wide array of speakers, including labor leaders, Colombian ex-pats, human rights activists and others, are giving statements to the media while protesters line the street chanting and holding signs with the message "No FTA with human rights abusers!"  The protesters will also stage a "die-in," lying in body bags on the street to symbolize those who have been killed under Uribe's regime.

The full list of speakers:

  • Robert Baugh, Executive Director, Industrial Union Council, AFL-CIO
  • Deborah Schneider, Change to Win and Director, SEIU Global Organizing Partnerships
  • Nicole Lee, Executive Director, TransAfrica Forum
  • John Jairo Garces, Un Día de Esperanza, Colombian exile whose father was killed by paramilitaries
  • Gerardo Cajamarca, Colombian City Councilman in Exile, SINALTAINAL, member of the Steelworkers Global Justice Team
  • Marino Cordoba, Association of Internally Displaced Afro-Colombians - USA, AFRODES-USA
  • Heather Hanson, Executive Director, U.S. Office on Colombia
  • Christina Lizzi, Student Trade Justice Campaign, George Washington University

Stay tuned for photos (and potentially video) of the event, which we'll be posting later this afternoon.

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Bolivia, Venezuela and Nicaragua to World Bank: "Go away"

Bolivia, Venezuela and Nicaragua have announced that they are pulling out of the World Bank's International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). Under the investor-state procedures set up under NAFTA and similar agreements, foreign companies are allowed to sue sovereign nations at ICSID if they feel their "expected future profits" are endangered by domestic policy.

Perhaps the most infamous ICSID case is the Bolivia water case, in which privatization of the water system in the city of Cochabamba led to massive rate hikes, violent protests, the repeal of watter privatization legislation, and then the company in question suing Bolivia in the ICSID for $25 million in lost future profits.

Obviously not wanting to expose themselves to further such cases in this undemocratic body, these three countries are considering a proposal from Bolivia's President Evo Morales that would "emphatically reject the legal, media and diplomatic pressure of some multinationals that ... resist the sovereign rulings of countries, making threats and initiating suits in international arbitration."

Given that Nicaragua is party to the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) signed in 2005, which includes investor-state provisions that allow foreign companies to utilize ICSID, it'll be interesting to see how the United States responds to this move.

For more on the investor-state issue, check out "Challenging Corporate Investor Rule" (PDF), a new report from the Institute for Policy Studies and Food and Water Watch. This report

"documents how private investors have used [investor-state] right[s] to demand compensation for government actions that diminish their potential profits, including public interest regulations. The report summarizes ten of the most controversial suits, including one pending against the U.S. government over California state measures to reduce environmental damages from a Canadian-owned gold mine. "
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