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New Direction?

The weekend announcement by Pelosi, Hoyer, Rangel and Levin that "Our legislative priorities do not include the renewal of fast track authority" and that they will oppose NAFTA expansion to Colombia and South Korea is very welcome, and Colombian workers and Korean farmers - and the U.S. Middle Class - can rest easier as a result. The AFL-CIO's statement and Steelworker statement reflect that excitement.

But as Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine) points out after the jump, there are still "serious concerns" with the Peru and Panama deals that these Democrats pledged to support. As humanitarian relief groups and Latino groups have pointed out, these deals still have agriculture provisions that will give incentives to narcotrafficking and immigration. As retirement security groups in the US and Peru have pointed out, the Peru deal still has provisions that would benefit Citibank and lock in failed social security privatization. As environmental groups have pointed out, the NAFTA model's harmful investor rights provisions are still in place. And even business groups say the "new" labor provisions are unenforceable. And much much more.

Democrats have been in this quandary before. They supported a basically NAFTA model trade pact with Jordan - with some improved labor rights provision on paper - that has led to an explosion in Jordanian sweatshops. And many Democrats supported Bush's NAFTA expansion to Bahrain on the basis of policy promises that have already been broken. And note this from Inside U.S. Trade from last December, after many Democrats helped pass the Bahrain FTA:

Bahrain’s government issued an edict last month that explicitly bans strikes and demonstrations in several sectors of its economy, including areas considered vital to security such as civil defense and ports as well as in the oil and gas sector, educational firms and bakeries. Labor groups sources said the edict appears to violate provisions in the U.S.-Bahrain FTA that prohibit weakening labor laws to spur increased trade or investment...

Support for the NAFTA model helped cost Democrats Congress in 1994 and helped cost Republicans Congress in 2006. How's the voting public to understand Democratic support for selective NAFTA expansion? It says all the wrong things at a time when the public is demanding a total change of course.

Statement of Michael H. Michaud regarding House Democratic Leadership’s Announcement on Trade

Washington, D.C. - While I continue to have serious concerns with the Peru and Panama Free Trade Agreements supported by House Democratic Leadership, I applaud the Leadership’s stated opposition today to the Korean FTA and to the Columbian FTA. They have rightly recognized the significant problems contained in these agreements.

Additionally, with fast track set to expire tomorrow night, I was extremely happy to learn that a renewal of fast track will not be a legislative priority for this Congress. I, along with several of my colleagues, have long advocated for a new direction and innovative approach to our trade policy and for Congress to take a greater responsibility for shaping it. Today’s announcement is indeed welcome news.

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