So, get ready. The debate on the long awaited Bush NAFTA expansion to Peru may start as early as 11 am this morning, although it could be closer to or after noon. The Rules Committee has published its rule on the bill, which will allow for 3 hours of hot Rangel-on-McCrery-on-Michaud-on-Ron Paul(?) action. This final proceeding, during which no amendments are allowed, brings to a close the Fast Track Deathclock on Peru. AND THERE'S STILL TIME TO CALL YOUR MEMBER NOW!
The morning papers produced a flurry of commentary on the Peru FTA. (Josh Holland at Alternet has a round-up of commentary in recent days entitled "Do-Nothing Congress about to do something on NAFTA-style deal with Peru"). Today, Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post writes:
The House is set to vote today on a free-trade pact with Peru . What's not clear is why. The Bush administration, of course, supports trade deals with just about anyone, as it has made clear by promoting an accord with Colombia, where murdering a union activist entitles the killer to a get-out-of-jail-free card...
In general, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have avoided votes on issues that divide their party -- but not, evidently, when the issue is trade. The party's Wall Street backers, who always have friends on the Ways and Means Committee, want those votes to go forward, while many in labor adhere to the idea Clinton floated: that a strategic pause is needed to reassess the effects of such pacts and to implement some offsets to the leveling effects that globalization has had on the incomes of American workers...
But why the Democratic rush on trade? Globalization does pose real challenges to working- and middle-class Americans. Democrats should wait until they're in a position -- say, in 2009 -- to begin to restore some security to Americans' economic lives before they return to cutting trade deals. Their electoral prospects, and the nation's economic prospects, demand no less.
The San Jose Mercury News ran this op-editorial by environmentalist Ted Smith:
The international trade rules even limit our government's ability to investigate imported products when there is evidence of contamination, while simultaneously giving special rights to corporations to sue governments when environmental policies threaten their profits.
Does this make any sense? Of course not.
But what makes even less sense is that Congress, including some leading Democrats, are right on the verge - not of reforming this trading system - but instead extending it yet again.
Even though the public - from liberals to conservatives, from Democrats to Republicans - overwhelmingly supports trade policy reform, key Democratic leaders have decided to work with the Bush administration to pass a NAFTA-expansion deal with Peru. Similar deals with Panama, Colombia and Korea are in the pipeline.
Democratic leaders claim they got "major environmental concessions" from Bush in these latest deals. But these concessions barely changed the structure of the deals, and don't fix the most glaring environmental problems. For example, a major Peruvian environmental association recently wrote to Congress asking for a vote against this trade agreement because it is expected to lead to massive oil and gas exploitation of the fragile Amazon Basin. And there is still no right to know if products are green or not.
The free trade agreement with Peru, like the other NAFTA-style deals, takes us in the wrong direction and won't help us "be or buy green." In order to assure that our emerging "green consciousness" is encouraged to thrive, we must insist on stronger pro-environment provisions in all new trade agreements, starting with the pact with Peru.
And finally, the Denver Post writes about the pressure that Dems are receiving in that state from grassroots' groups:
But the trade group for smaller farms, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, said the agreement would hurt farmers by flooding the U.S. with inexpensive goods.
"We feel like most of these trade agreements pit one farm against another," said Benjamin Waters, government-relations director for Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, which represents about 20,000 farms in Colorado.
A trade group for independent cattle ranchers and feedlots said it's concerned that the agreement would not protect consumers. Beef producers in surrounding countries could ship cattle to a Peru slaughterhouse where it would be labeled as a product of Peru and shipped to the U.S., said Bill Bullard, chief executive of R-Calf United Stockgrowers of America, a Montana trade group with about 1,000 Colorado members.
Moreover, the agreement helps multinational corporations like Swift & Co. increase their market share, which gives them increased power, he said.
"They're seeking lower-cost production areas from which to procure live cattle beef," Bullard said.
That hurts smaller U.S. producers, he said.
UPDATE: 11/7, 12;20 PM. Looks like debate will begin around 4 pm now. Stay tuned. In the meantime, Sen. Edwards' campaign again raised the volume on the Peru FTA, putting more pressure on Clinton to come out:
The fact that the Peru trade deal is supported by a bipartisan group of insiders, including George Bush and senior officials from the first Clinton Administration – many of whom are now lobbyists, corporate lawyers, and business consultants – should be proof-positive of why members of Congress should join with me and oppose this deal. The benefit to corporate lobbyists from both sides of the political aisle will come only at the expense of hard-working families.