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"Some of these things that come up under free trade are just amazing"

Jane Bussey reports in today's Miami Herald:

A group of U.S. community organizations have entered the fray over free trade, warning that fuzzy language in a trade accord with Peru could penalize that country if it tries to fix its controversial, privatized Social Security system.

A two-page letter from organizations that fought President Bush's plans to privatize the U.S. Social Security system will be sent to Congress Tuesday. It asks legislators to vote against the trade accord, which could lock in a privatized Social Security system in another country when such privatization was rejected by Democrats in the United States...

The letter from nearly 30 grass-roots organizations, including the Florida Consumer Action Network, urged members of Congress to oppose the accord because it ``includes provisions that could lock in [Peru's] failed Social Security privatization.''

''Some of these things that come up under free trade are just amazing,'' said Bill Newton, executive director of the Florida Consumer Action Network...

Citibank Overseas Investment is the largest single investor in ProFuturo, which is one of the leading pension fund providers in Peru.

The letter warned that ambiguous wording in the financial services and investment chapters in the trade agreement could potentially open the way for Citibank to ''claim a large monetary award'' in international tribunals.

You can find a copy of the letter here, signed by Americans for Democratic Action, Arizona Advocacy Network, Campaign for America’s Future, Citizen Action/Illinois, Citizen Action of New York, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Colorado Progressive Coalition, Connecticut Citizen Action Group, Florida Consumer Action Network, Georgia Rural Urban Summit, Iowa Citizen Action Network, Labor-Religion Coalition of NY state, Maine People's Alliance, Michigan Citizen Action, Missouri Progressive Vote Coalition, NDPeople.org, NETWORK: A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby, New Hampshire Citizens Alliance, New Jersey Citizen Action, New Mexico PACE, Oregon Action, Progressive Maryland, Public Citizen, Rhode Island Ocean State Action, Tennessee Citizen Action, United Vision for Idaho, USAction, Washington Community Action Network, and West Virginia Citizen Action Group. Their conclusion?

Peru FTA is not only a threat to the future well-being of Peruvian citizens, but also a dangerous precedent for the United States and world. Social Security, and the essential protection it provides, should not be limited by U.S. trade policies – either in the United States or in our trading party countries. We urge Congress to reject the Peru FTA and begin a course toward a fair trade model.

This follows an excellent report from Bill Moyers Journal last Friday on the issue. Citibank tells us what it likes about the Peru FTA here, and Bush's financial corporation trade advisory committee likes the precedent being set here. More background can be found at my piece over on Alternet.

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