House Members to White House: We Got Your Back
California Calling for Trade Reform

Testing the Panamanian Waters

Although the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) and other trade-related agencies have not been staffed up yet, the annual USTR report to Congress (PDF) says that they hope to move the NAFTA expansion to Panama "relatively quickly." According to Congress Daily PM:

Multinational corporations like Caterpillar, eager to bid on a massive Panama Canal widening project, support that the Panama pact, but skeptics say the country's laws lack transparency and it remains too easy for companies to use that nation as a tax shelter.

Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, noted that as a senator, ObamaGeyser 2 co-sponsored legislation to crack down on overseas tax shelters that specifically listed Panama. "Having a vote on this begs the question of the wisdom of picking a big political brouhaha" while in the midst of sensitive negotiations on health care and climate change, Wallach said. "President Obama certainly doesn't want to have trade policy start with hangovers and leftovers from the Bush administration, if in fact this document represents the Obama trade policy."

And according to Bloomberg,

a majority of Democratic lawmakers voted against a similar agreement with Peru in 2007, and many may not be eager to vote on a Bush proposal.

“It’s a political miscalculation,” Lori Wallach, president of Global Trade Watch, which has organized opposition to Nafta, Peru and other trade pacts. A vote would provoke “huge political unpleasantness,” he said...

More than 50 House members, led by Maine Democrat Mike Michaud, sent a letter to Obama last week, urging him to tear up all three pending trade deals.

Labor unions and many Democrats say they oppose the Colombia deal because of a history of violence against union organizers in that South American nation.

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