This from across the wires...
Members of Congress, Latino Civil Rights and Immigrant Groups Say NAFTA-Style Trade Pacts Fail Latinos in the U.S. and Abroad
Latino Organizations United in Opposition to NAFTA-expansions to Peru, Panama and Colombia; Call on Congress to Chart a New Course on Trade
Washington, DC — As the fight over immigration heats up in Washington, U.S. Congress must oppose proposed NAFTA expansion agreements with Peru, Panama and Colombia that are expected to increase pressure on millions of small farmers in those countries to attempt desperate migration to the United States, said Latino civil rights leaders and members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in a press conference today.
Major Latino organizations including the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities (NALACC) and the Dolores Huerta Foundation today sent a letter to the U.S. Congress reiterating their opposition to the proposed trade agreements after the recent release of freshly re-negotiated texts of the agreements failed to address the key concerns of the Latino community in the United States and abroad.
“It is unbelievable that in the middle of a contentious debate on immigration, Congress is being asked to pass trade agreements that are certain to increase the pressure on impoverished small farmers in Latin America to attempt to come to the United States,” said Brent Wilkes, the Executive Director of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the nation’s oldest and largest Latino civil rights membership organization. “We wrote repeatedly to the U.S. Congress requesting that the agricultural provisions in the agreement be fixed, and we are disappointed that the new text released this week for the FTAs doesn’t fix them.”
The agricultural rules included in the Peru, Colombian and Panama agreements mirror closely the agricultural rules from NAFTA that resulted in over 1.3 million lost jobs in Mexico’s rural sector. Undocumented migration from Mexico to the United States has more than doubled since NAFTA was enacted in no small part due to failed trade policies. In the case of the Peru, Colombia and Panama agreements, these same agricultural provisions will foreseeably result in the displacement of large numbers of peasant farmers — increasing hunger, social unrest, and desperate migration at a minimum; and according to a report of the Colombian Ministry of Agriculture, will lead to an increase in drug cultivation and violence.
“We are calling on members of Congress today to realize that in order to fix the immigration problem of the United States, we need to look at the root cause. If we don’t fix the failed NAFTA model of free trade, we’ll be fighting over immigration again and again,” said Gabriela Lemus, Executive Director of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement.
UPDATE: Mark Drajem from Bloomberg reports on the pending Peru, Panama and Colombia FTAs:
Under the current fast-track treatment, Congress must accept or reject a trade agreement without change. Still, even with the changes worked out between the White House and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel of New York, supporters from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce don't expect a majority of Democrats to support either of those agreements.
The accords were dealt a blow today as the largest U.S. Latino groups wrote members of Congress opposing them, arguing that a flood of subsidized U.S. agriculture exports would push farmers in those countries off the land.
"This deal would continue to generate economic inequality and a deterioration of social standards both at home and abroad, and continue to make migration to the United States the only option for many working families in Latin America,'' the League of United Latin American Citizens and other Latino groups wrote in their letter.