While former President Clinton was visiting
At a news conference in
Port-au-PrinceMonday, Clintonsaid when he helped Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide return to power in 1994, Clintonalso signed legislation that increased the flow of cheap American rice into . Haiti
But now, he says, "I think it was a mistake. I think it was part of a global trend that was wrong-headed."
says the theory behind that global trend was that wealthy countries could provide poorer countries with cheaper food than their farmers could grow. That would lead poor countries to skip directly to industrialization. But Clinton says, once he left office and saw the effects of that policy on farmers in developing countries, he changed his mind. Clinton
"It is unrealistic to expect that a country can totally obliterate its capacity to feed itself and just skip a stage of development," he says. "It seems almost laughable now that we ever thought it."
It’s heartening to see one of the strongest proponents of
the neoliberal economic model come to realize just how damaging that model has
When NAFTA entered into force in 1994, cheap subsidized
American corn from corporate farms flooded the Mexican economy, forcing hundreds
of thousands of small corn farmers to leave their farms. Many of these farmers, faced with corn prices
below their cost of production, often had no choice but to emigrate to the
(Thanks to Flickr user talkradionews for the photo)
This week in Geneva, officials met at the WTO for a much-downgraded Doha "stocktaking" session. The results of the session essentially confirm what many WTO member countries say off the record: We will not see conclusion of the Doha Round this year or anytime soon, if ever. But, no one seems to want to be responsible for killing Doha, so countries schizophrenically agree to press ahead. "The question is, when will WTO member countries agree to replace the Doha Round with an updated agenda?" said Lori Wallach. "The Doha Round was launched in 2001 with a 2005 deadline, so it is not surprising that its terms conflict with resolution of the key challenges countries face today... Rather than proposing remedies to the financial and climate crises, the Doha Round agenda includes further financial deregulation and energy sector proposals that conflict with efforts now under way by the Obama administration and Congress and in other nations to stabilize the economy and transition to a low-carbon future."
Read Lori Wallach's official statement after the jump.
Robert Scott of the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) just
came out with a terrific new study on the job losses that the
Between December 2007 (when the recession began) and February
What’s great about this study is that it estimates job losses in each congressional district. Previous studies from EPI looked at deficit-induced job losses only down to the state level. With this study, Scott uses a different dataset that surveys millions of people per year, so there are enough respondents in each congressional district to get job loss estimates. Check out where your district ranks in job losses here (and here for an alphabetical listing).
Fortunately, there is a lot of movement in Congress to get
In Australia last week, the Office of the U.S. Trade
Representative (USTR) participated in the first round of the talks of the Obama
administration for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement (the Bush
administration already had three rounds of talks in 2008 with Chile, New
Zealand, Brunei, and Singapore before the TPP process expanded to include Australia,
Peru, and Vietnam). The USTR revealed little about what was discussed last week
in its statement announcing the conclusion of this round of talks, but there was one intriguing bit of information that flew under the radar of
most of the news media covering the TPP talks.
The Foreign Minister of Colombia, Jaime Bermudez, was in
But the other important matter we discussed, and the [Foreign] Minister [of Colombia, Jaime Bermudez,] will have a conversation, a detailed conversation with [Australian Minister for Trade] Simon Crean about this, of course we saw this week, a very important trade Asia Pacific initiative, with the start of the Trans Pacific Partnership discussions.
Currently we have four members of the TPP, we now have eight countries involved in those discussions. The [Foreign] Minister [of
Colombia] is going to have a detailed discussion with Simon Crean, but of course there is also some rationale, given that in the TPP we find Chilea member, , one of the negotiating eight. There is a rationale for Peru also putting itself forward in due course for that, and we're looking forward to a good conversation between Simon Crean and the Minister on that front as well. Colombia
The possible entry of
The potential for expanding the TPP to include more countries
after the agreement is finalized creates huge concerns about its impact on
democracy and sovereignty. Congress has
already told the USTR that
If there will be a possibility of allowing countries into the TPP after it is implemented, the USTR must ensure that the approval process for any new proposed TPP partners is exactly the same as it is for a new trade agreement outside of the TPP, including a vote on the floors of the House and Senate. The TPP should also include a democracy clause that would require TPP parties to have democratic forms of government so that we do not have a repeat of the Honduras-CAFTA debacle of last year. Otherwise, the TPP could take us down a dangerous road where we could be stuck with trade agreements with some very unsavory governments.
On February 3, the WTO issued a document that many in Geneva call the “non-response” to over a year of growing questions from WTO member countries and others about the connection between the rules of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) on financial services and the global economic crisis. Indeed, this was the Secretariat’s first major study in nearly 12 years about the WTO’s financial service rules. This paper has been discussed in a hot debate on the IELP blog, and in a recent OECD-WTO study.
The new paper is a disappointment to anyone hoping for a convincing rebuttal to charges that the WTO’s General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) promotes financial services deregulation. The 76-page document includes a lengthy discursion on the GATS treatment of corporate branches versus subsidiaries, as well as a very defensive discussion of the causes of the crisis (bottomline, in their estimation: WTO rules are in no way implicated). The paper avoids altogether the question of WTO compatibility of the types of measures that member countries have implemented in response to the crisis. This is despite the formal demand via a paper tabled September 17, 2009 in the WTO’s Committee on Trade in Financial Services, and via subsequent requests at the General Council in December.
And, with respect to the question of how GATS rules promoted past financial deregulation and could conflict with reregulation, several points are especially worth highlighting:
1. The Secretariat does not rebut any of the main concerns about the GATS rules’ deregulatory requirements raised in recent years.
2. In fact, the Secretariat confirms many of these concerns.
3. When dealing with a controversial issue where there is no record of official interpretation at the WTO, the Secretariat cites only unofficial sources making “don’t worry, be happy” arguments rather than reviewing all of the international law review and other analyses, or offering an official interpretation.
Here’s a Top 13 list of claims the WTO’s defenders would have liked the Secretariat to make, but which it did not, because it cannot:
1. That GATS rules only require that foreign firms be treated like domestic firms, and that a WTO panel would never rule against a non-discriminatory domestic regulation.
2. That WTO panels have already established that countries are free to adopt non-discriminatory financial services regulations without risking GATS challenges.
3. That any policy that is ruled kosher by the so-called “international financial regulatory bodies” (like the Basel Committee for Banking Supervision, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), etc.) is automatically allowable under the GATS, and that the WTO just imports the definitions and disciplines of these more knowledgeable bodies.
4. That countries that fear that past governments overcommitted domestic financial service sectors to GATS rules at the height of the deregulation craze can withdraw those sectors without having to pay out compensation to other WTO members.
5. That anytime a country adopts a financial services policy for prudential reasons, then there is no way that this policy can be challenged at / ruled against by a WTO panel.
6. That the GATS has been determined by a WTO panel to not restrict countries from adopting firewalls between commercial and investment banks (as the United States did under the Glass-Steagall Act and later amendments).
7. That the GATS has been determined by a WTO panel to not apply to policies limiting the size of individual firms.
8. That countries can ban financial services they fear are toxic, even if past governments signed up these sectors (perhaps inadvertently) to the GATS.
9. That GATS contains no disciplines for capital controls that many developing countries are now seeking to use, and that countries now desiring to restrict capital flows (through financial transaction taxes or other means) can simply add these as limitations to their schedule in the Doha Round negotiations.
10. That the Doha Round does not entail deeper financial services commitments.
11. That the bank bailouts of the last two years present no GATS conflicts.
12. That the Standstill provision in the Understanding on Commitments on Financial Services does not amount to a lock in of the regulatory status quo in place in the 1990s.
13. That policies of the Treasury Department or Federal Reserve are not subject to GATS disciplines.
Indeed, the Secretariat would not have been able to support the above points, even had it wished to.
If you want to delve more into the nuts and bolts of this study, check out a new memo that I just posted.
Obama’s trade policy opportunity
By Lori Wallach
Contrary to the clamor from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and newspaper editorials, the Obama trade agenda is not stalled - it is in formation.
This week, negotiations started on President Barack Obama’s first potential trade agreement - the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Will the administration transform the TPP process that Bush initiated in 2008, so as to translate Obama’s campaign trade reform commitments into a new approach that that works for more people and thus rebuild bipartisan consensus for trade expansion? Or, will the administration revert to the Bush-Clinton-Bush trade pact model, and intensify the associated economic and political damage?
Creating a new policy is necessary in this era of globalization, if Americans are to enjoy the economic security of good jobs and an end of the crisis-inducing financial casino, a clean environment, and safe food and products.
Indeed, creating a new trade policy will determine the success of much of the Obama administration’s domestic agenda given that today’s agreements extend far beyond tariffs and quotas to set parameters for numerous non-trade polices. Trade-pact investment and procurement rules will affect whether the billions being invested in the Green Economy will translate into American jobs. Trade-pact service sector rules define the policy space available to re-regulate finance and reform health insurance. Trade-pact rules implicate efforts to combat climate chaos.
The large agribusiness firms and job-offshoring multinationals who claim Obama’s trade agenda is stuck were the few beneficiaries of the 1990s pacts like the North American Free Trade Agreement and World Trade Organization. They oppose establishment of an Obama trade policy. They seek continuation of the status quo, starting with adoption of Bush’s leftover NAFTA-style pacts with Colombia, Korea and Panama. To revive this failed model - most recently rebuffed when a majority of House Democrats opposed Bush’s Peru agreement that mirrors the remaining three - would be a grievous policy and political mistake.
The goods news is that a diverse bloc in Congress has built consensus around a new approach designed to achieve trade expansion that can deliver U.S. job creation, consumer safety and environmental protection. A majority of House Democrats, including 12 full committee and 56 subcommittee chairs, have sponsored the Trade Reform, Accountability, Development and Employment (TRADE) Act, as have 23 Blue Dogs, 19 New Democrats and 30 Congressional Black Caucus members. The bipartisan legislation sponsored by Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) translates Obama’s trade reform commitments into a new trade-pact model - building on the initial reforms Democratic trade committee leaders extracted from Bush in 2007.
The TRADE Act’s provisions on what future pacts should and should not include provide a roadmap for trade expansion at a time when the damage wrought by the NAFTA-WTO model has transformed trade politics. In the past two elections, 72 congressional candidates that campaigned against the trade status quo and for a new approach replaced those who voted for NAFTA, CAFTA, and China’s WTO entry. GOP and Democratic 2008 candidates ran over 140 campaign ads on trade, as did the Democratic House and Senate national campaign committees. This reflects the strong public demand for a new American trade policy.
Not surprisingly, polling shows bipartisan opposition to the old trade regime across diverse demographics. Since NAFTA and WTO went into effect, the U.S. lost net 5 million manufacturing jobs (one out of four in that sector) while American median wages remained stagnant despite productivity gains as corporations used the pacts’ investor protections to relocate and arbitrage their labor costs absent a floor of labor standards. Various environmental and health laws were attacked before trade tribunals. Unsafe food and product imports swelled. The trade deficit exploded from $102 billion to a height of $807 billion, with dire consequences for global economic stability. Quite simply, the old model has not worked for most Americans - nor for most in other nations, as is highlighted by the Doha Round WTO expansion deadlock.
For the Obama administration to succeed, it must not only update the trade-pact model, but also remedy our China trade disaster and update the 2001 Doha Round agenda. Treasury’s April 15 decision on China’s currency manipulation will be critical in determining the success of Obama’s goal of creating 2 million net new jobs from expanded exports. We would suffer net job losses and an enormous trade deficit were imports - to which China is the largest single contributor - to follow their current trend.
Time is overdue to dispense with the claim that critics of the past model are anti-trade. The question is trade under what terms. The bipartisan consensus that marked decades of U.S. trade votes was shattered with the 1990s advent of the NAFTA trade agreement model. Replacing the failed 1990s trade-pact experiments with the new American trade policy Obama promised and Americans expect is the way forward.
Wallach is director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch.
Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, sets the scene for the Trans-Pacific Partnership and briefly details what's at stake:
Make or Break: Obama Officials Start Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Talks Today - First Obama Trade Deal?
Pressure is on for Administration's Trade Foray to Deliver the New American Trade Policy Obama Promised, not Continue Bush's NAFTA-With-Vietnam Model for TPP
Pressure is on for Administration's Trade Foray to Deliver the New American Trade Policy Obama Promised, not Continue Bush's NAFTA-With-Vietnam Model for TPP
The policy and political stakes are high as administration officials today begin negotiations for President Barack Obama's first potential trade agreement - the eight-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Negotiations will be held March 15-19 in Melbourne, Australia, with three additional rounds of negotiations scheduled for 2010, including a June session to be held in the United States.
The TPP negotiations are being closely watched because they have become the venue in which the Obama approach to trade pacts will be revealed. Broadly at issue is whether the new administration will use the TPP process to translate Obama's many specific campaign trade reform commitments into a new approach - or whether the administration will fall back on the trade agreement model used by the previous George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations. TPP talks were initiated by the Bush administration, which engaged in three rounds in 2008. A majority of House Democrats, including 12 full committee chairs and 58 subcommittee chairs, have made clear their expectations for any future trade pacts by sponsoring the Trade Reform Accountability Development and Employment (TRADE) Act. The legislation translates Obama's trade reform commitments into a new model for American trade pacts that are designed to achieve trade expansion under terms more consistent with Democrats' core policy goals of job creation, consumer safeguards and environmental protection.
Check out Lori's interview on Bloomberg Television about January's trade deficit numbers and President Obama's National Export Initiative:
Go here and click on "Launch Video Player" and "U.S." She'll be talking about trade deficit numbers and President Obama's National Export Initiative.
In January, Peter Cowhey stepped down from his yearlong stint as senior counselor at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) and he may be giving us an inside look at what the USTR staff is thinking going into the first round of negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement with Singapore, Peru, Australia, Chile, Brunei, New Zealand, and Vietnam next week. Inside U.S. Trade gives us the scoop (sorry, subscription only):
In an interview with Inside U.S. Trade, former USTR senior counselor Peter Cowhey signaled that negotiations to establish a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement could be used to improve upon past bilateral trade deals the
U.S.has already negotiated with Singapore, Peru, Australiaand , particularly on rules for advanced technologies. Chile
Great! USTR might be looking to improve the
trade agreements have assured access for basic telecommunications services and basic data transmission networks, [Cowhey] said. But it is not entirely clear from a legal point of view whether those agreements cover new services such as Twitter and Facebook on the one hand, or integrated energy and environment management control systems for entire buildings and cities on the other, Cowhey explained. U.S.
What a let down! Twitter is nice and all, but could we be a bit more ambitious here when we reopen those trade agreements in the TPP negotiations, please? This must be just a warm up for when the USTR announces a new trade agreement model based on the TRADE Act that a majority of House Democrats have co-sponsored, right?
...performed by The Capitol Steps.
Last month, an American University think tank made this startling conclusion: 79 percent of the $2 billion in clean energy grants under a U.S. Treasury/ Energy Department stimulus initiative have gone to foreign - not U.S. - companies. By industry estimates, the program has lead to well over a thousand net job losses in manufacturing.
While President Obama ran and won (and has since advocated) a green industry agenda that creates jobs in the U.S., the AU report finds that the Energy Secretary and American Wind Energy Association stating for the record that the grant program did not have immediate U.S. manufacturing job creation as a major goal.
Yesterday, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) joined Sens. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) in calling for a suspension of the grant program until legislation can be passed that makes sure the federal agencies prioritize U.S. job creation. In Schumer's words, "We should not be giving China a head start in this race at our own country's expense."
And as the New America Foundation showed, all of this is part of a longer term "green trade deficit" the U.S. has yet to address.
This latest kerfuffle has reignited last year's debate about Buy America provisions. People need to remember two things: Buy America has been shown to aid U.S. job creation, and neither the stimulus bill nor this latest Brown amendment change long-standing U.S. policy.
Note: This is not a verbatim transcript. Not even close. It is an attempt to capture major areas of discussion of interest to EOT readers.
During the presidential campaign, Obama made it clear that he intended to renegotiate NAFTA to include enforceable environmental and labor rights provisions in the main text of the agreement. The USTR’s 2010 Trade Policy Agenda, released yesterday, entirely lacked any plans to fulfill this crucial campaign promise.
When President Obama was campaigning for office, the only “r” verb he used on NAFTA was “renegotiate,” coupled with a friendly “opt out.” In contrast, USTR's report uses the verbs “review” and “recalibrate,” but then only to refer to actions they promised to take but still haven't taken. On NAFTA’s severe environmental and labor shortcomings, the report only stated that NAFTA’s central oversight body, comprised of officials from each country’s trade negotiating body, would “strengthen its relationship” with the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation and the North American Commission for Labor Cooperation, which are bodies established under NAFTA whose role is mostly limited to releasing reports about the labor and environmental effects of NAFTA. They have no enforcement capabilities, which Obama heavily criticized.
It’s not like Obama whispered his position on NAFTA to labor unions and environmentalists in private meetings. He was loud and clear about his plan to renegotiate NAFTA, proclaiming it several times in the televised presidential debates. In a January 2008 debate, he said that “it is absolutely true that NAFTA was a mistake.” Obama reminded us that his position on NAFTA has been consistent during a February 2008 debate:
MR. RUSSERT: Senator Obama, you did in 2004 talk to farmers and suggest that NAFTA had been helpful. The Associated Press today ran a story about NAFTA, saying that you have been consistently ambivalent towards the issue. Simple question: Will you, as president, say to
and Canada , "This has not worked for us; we are out"? Mexico
SEN. OBAMA: I will make sure that we renegotiate, in the same way that Senator Clinton talked about. And I think actually Senator Clinton's answer on this one is right. I think we should use the hammer of a potential opt-out as leverage to ensure that we actually get labor and environmental standards that are enforced. And that is not what has been happening so far.
That is something that I have been consistent about. I have to say, Tim, with respect to my position on this, when I ran for the United States Senate, the Chicago Tribune, which was adamantly pro-NAFTA, noted that, in their endorsement of me, they were endorsing me despite my strong opposition to NAFTA.
In the Democratic candidates’ debate in August 2007, Obama had a sense of urgency in his voice when he discussed his position on NAFTA:
Statement of Lori Wallach, Director, Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch Division
Relative to last year’s March 1 report, the 2010 Trade Policy Agenda released today by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) excludes some troubling elements, such as the call for rapid action on the leftover Bush trade pact with Panama, the demand that climate policy conform to trade rules and the reference to renewed presidential trade authority. But at the same time, the report unfortunately fails to deliver the new fair trade agenda that President Barack Obama promised during the campaign and that is needed for our country’s economic recovery.
It also continues to mimic the misrepresentations that the Bush administration borrowed from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce with respect to only considering the role of exports on U.S job creation, as if the U.S. did not have a massive job-killing trade deficit. An example is the hilarious statement about 10 million U.S. jobs being supported by exports in 2008 – a year we had a $696 billion deficit – without any reference to the net U.S. jobs effect of the flood of imports underlying that deficit. The report also fails to mention that 5 million net U.S manufacturing jobs – one out of every four – have been lost since the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into effect, or the downward pressure our current trade policies are putting on wages across the economy.
Last Friday's rally and protest at the soon-to-close Whirlpool plant in Evansville, Indiana drew a massive crowd. Organizers said 5,500 protesters joined the day's actions against the corporate greediness of Whirlpool's - which just received $19 million in federal stimulus money for job creation! Protesters demanded Whirlpool reverse its plan to shift good 1,100 jobs to Mexico - a move facilitated by unfair trade deal-in-chief: NAFTA.
The AFL-CIO has already produced a short video of highlights from the actions:
And this is only the beginning. Imagine how workers in Evansville would react if the President tried to pass yet another NAFTA-type trade deal - like one with South Korea where the U.S. auto industry takes on it on the chin. Now imagine what happens if they tried to pass one with tax haven Panama or unionist murder capitol Colombia!
Clearly, U.S. workers, facing some of the hardest economic times in memory, won't stand idly by while their families' futures are washed down the drain by corporate greed and bad trade policy. That's why they're mobilizing behind the TRADE Act - the comprehensive trade reform bill - and pressuring to hold President Obama accountable to his campaign promises.