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Wallach and Tucker in American Prospect: Parties realign on flawed trade deals

Our own Lori Wallach and Todd Tucker have a piece in the American Prospect today. Here’s a snippet:

American Prospect logoAs he gears up for a difficult re-election campaign, President Obama risks losing key swing states that he won in 2008 because of a recent flip-flop on trade commitments…
Even the government’s own study, produced by the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), showed that these pacts would increase U.S. imports by more than exports…
Instead of probing such matters, most mainstream press reports over the entire four-plus year debate simply parroted corporate and Obama-administration talking points.

The missed political storyline, too, was equally astounding. Two-thirds of Democratic House members opposed Obama on the Korea pact and 82 percent who opposed him on the Colombia pact. It's his biggest split with House Democrats thus far. The number who voted against the deal is even greater than the percentage of House Dems who opposed the Patriot Act (63 percent) or the war-funding bills (56 percent). And of course, Obama got nothing in return for the capitulation: Republicans advanced the trade pacts while blocking his second stimulus package. So much for negotiation.

It took Bill Clinton nearly eight years of NAFTA job losses, sellouts, and scandals to have about two-thirds of the House Democrats vote against China’s entry into the World Trade Organization in 2000. Obama managed to meet and beat that record with his first trade votes. The percentage of Democratic House votes against these deals even surpassed Democrats’ average level of opposition to Republican presidents’ trade initiatives.

Click here for the full article.

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Key U.S. Groups Call for Review of WTO Financial Rules Post-Crisis

Today, Public Citizen joined the AFL-CIO, Americans for Financial Reform, Citizens Trade Campaign, Consumer Watchdog, and U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) in releasing a letter to U.S. Ambassador to the World Trade Organization Michael Punke calling for a review of WTO rules to ensure that countries have sufficient policy space to re-regulate the financial sector.  The letter urges the U.S. government to support a proposal raised by member state Ecuador to include language in the upcoming WTO Ministerial Declaration that instructs the WTO’s Committee on Trade in Financial Services to review related WTO rules in light of the financial crisis.

The letter says, in part:
“Given that many of us worked tirelessly on the major financial reform package promoted by the Obama administration last year, we, the undersigned organizations, are concerned about how current and any future expanded financial liberalization under the current WTO rules may affect financial reregulation efforts here at home and in other countries. Therefore, we believe it would be appropriate, now that sufficient time has passed from the height of the financial crisis, for the Ministers meeting at the WTO’s December 2011 Ministerial Conference to instruct the Council on Trade in Services and the Committee on Trade in Financial Services to conduct a thorough review of WTO rules implicating financial services in light of the crisis. In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, governments around the world as well as an unprecedented array of scholars have called for improved domestic and international-level financial regulation as a means to avoid future crises and restore global financial stability. For these measures to succeed, it is critical that the policies of the various international economic bodies are coherent.”

The full text of the letter is here and after the jump.

Continue reading "Key U.S. Groups Call for Review of WTO Financial Rules Post-Crisis" »

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Trade Talks in Peru Meet Strong Opposition

As trade negotiators from the U.S. and eight other Pacific Rim countries met in Lima, Peru this week for Trans-Pacific Free Trade Agreement (FTA) talks, Peruvian and global activists criticized the continued secrecy of the talks and the public health implications of recently leaked texts on drug patents and pharmaceutical pricing.

Read Public Citizen's statement about the dangers of the leaked U.S. proposals.

And here's some television coverage from a leading Peruvian news network of a civil society rally outside the hotel where talks are taking place, featuring some of our Peruvian and international allies.



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Recently Revealed ‘Secrecy Pact’ for Trans-Pacific Trade Talks Belies Obama Administration Promises of Transparency in Trade

U.S. Groups Escalate Demands for Access to Trans-Pacific Trade Texts as Global Push for Transparency Builds on Eve of Talks

WASHINGTON, D.C. – After a leaked document revealed that the Obama administration signed a special pact to keep all documents relating to Trans-Pacific Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations secret, a broad array of U.S. groups – including Public Citizen – joined their global counterparts today in demanding an end to the secrecy surrounding the controversial negotiations.

Twenty-two U.S. labor, consumer, faith, environmental and human rights organizations – including the AFL-CIO, Sierra Club, Presbyterian Church (USA) and Public Citizen – sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk calling on the U.S. government to implement the administration’s transparency pledges, to take the lead in ending the recently revealed secrecy pact and to release Trans-Pacific FTA negotiating texts. Groups in other participating countries sent similar letters to their governments.

“The fact that negotiators have gone out of their way to execute a special secrecy agreement has made a lot of people wonder just what exactly they are so afraid the press, the public and Congress would see if there was openness,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. “While executives from hundreds of corporations have been named ‘official trade advisors’ by the Obama administration and given access to the texts, the people whose lives would be most affected may never get to see what our negotiators are bargaining for – and bargaining away – until it’s all over.”

Trans-Pacific FTA talks have taken place behind closed doors, and none of the draft texts has been released despite President Barack Obama’s promises that the Trans-Pacific FTA will usher in a new era of transparency in trade agreement negotiations and result in a “high-standard, 21st century agreement.” Two-thirds of all House Democrats just voted against Obama on FTAs he submitted that had been negotiated in secret by the previous administration. A greater percentage of House Democrats opposed Obama on the passage of these trade pacts than on any other legislation since he took office.

“Given that texts are released by the World Trade Organization and other negotiating venues in which these countries participate – and after years of Obama administration pledges that its trade policymaking would be open and inclusive – it is really outrageous that they signed a special pact to keep the content of these talks that will affect so many peoples’ lives totally secret,” said Wallach.

Today’s letter comes after an effort earlier this year to obtain access to negotiating texts. Obama administration officials never responded to the past demands, which also were made by major Democratic base organizations. In February, scores of civil society groups in five of the nine countries involved in the negotiations launched a coordinated “release the text” campaign with letters to their trade ministries. Parliamentarians in some countries have become involved in combating the secrecy surrounding the talks. It was not until the September negotiating round in Chicago that negotiators admitted that in May 2010 they had signed a secrecy agreement that would keep all negotiating documents secret for four years after the talks conclude.

“With numerous negotiating texts now established in addition to the investment and financial services chapters, the relevance and urgency of our request has only increased,” the letter said.

Read the full letter, as well as other letters from the international campaign, here


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Vast Majority of Dems Abandon President, and Media Misses It

It's typically treated as pretty newsworthy when a majority of a president's own party votes against a signature presidential initiative. Double that when over two-thirds do so. Triple the newsworthiness when it's the first time that magnitude of opposition has occured in a president's tenure.

Quadruple for when talking heads are debating whether elected officials will carry the banner of a wide-ranging new progressive protest movement that has declared its independence from that same president. And quintuple when the president has presented a two-plank carrot-stick deal with Republicans - controversial trade deals that won't create jobs plus stimulus spending that will - and when the Republicans move forward with the job-killing plank. But the job-creating plank? Not so much.

This describes precisely what happened with last night's votes to expand NAFTA-style deals to Korea, Colombia and Panama. But you wouldn't know it from any of this morning's press coverage of the vote, which lauded the "bipartisanship" of a deal that was supported by only a tiny cohort of corporate Democrats.

This is deeply misguided, as Lori Wallach noted over at FireDogLake,

"Today a larger share of House Democrats voted against a Democratic president on trade than ever before. It took Bill Clinton nearly eight years of NAFTA job losses, sell outs and scandals to have (not even) two-thirds of the House Democrats vote against him on trade."

Obama managed to do the same in three, getting Democratic opposition nearly 20 percentage points higher than Clinton ever did.Over 82 percent of Democrats opposed the Colombia FTA, while over two-thirds opposed the Korea FTA and over 64 percent opposed the Panama FTA. Even a majority of the New Democrats - the most pro-NAFTA grouping in the party - opposed. These percentages go well beyond the previous high-water mark of House Dem revolt from the president (the February vote on the Patriot Act).

Why were Dems so opposed? The deals won't do anything to help the jobs crisis, and could make things worse. On top of that, they contain hundreds of pages of non-trade provisions that put obstacles in the way of re-regulation of Wall Street and environmental protection. Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine), a leading Blue Dog, lays out the analysis in this compelling speech that takes the White House to task.

Democrats' declaration of independence wasn't the only thing that was missed in the coverage. The media also missed the storyline of the Tea Party's abandoning of its principles. Candidate Rand Paul, for instance, railed against the WTO as as an intrusion on U.S. sovereignty. Countless House Tea Party candidates ran paid ads attacking job offshoring, helping them make key inroads among working class voters. Yet virtually the entirety of the Tea Party backed candidates sided with the president for job offshoring deals.

Indeed, there has always been several dozen Republicans who could be counted on to vote against unfair trade policy - even in super-close votes like Bush's push in 2005 for CAFTA, which passed by two votes. Fast forward to 2011, when ONLY SIX Republicans voted against the Panama FTA. This is a historic shift for a party who has always had a more trade-skeptical segment going back centuries.

These political shifts are likely to have major consequences in the upcoming elections. Many Democrats have - like the movement on the streets - declared their political independence. Will it be enough to make up for being down-ticket from a president who flip-flopped on his own campaign pledges to overhaul U.S. trade policy? The world will be watching.

(P.S. The media also was also mum that the president was misrepresenting the government's own studies on the likely economic impact of the deal. These studies, unlike similar studies for all earlier trade deals, showed an increase in the trade deficit. For virtually the entire four-year debate on the bills, the media mentioned only the projected export increase, without discussing the projected import increase. This was Very valuable political cover, but not particularly good reporting. But that's another story.)

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Job-Killing Trade Deals Pass Congress Amidst Record Democratic Opposition

Obama and Tea Party Flip Flop on Fair Trade Campaign Commitments

Statement of Lori Wallach, Director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch

With nine percent unemployment and Americans desperate for job creation, it is unconscionable that President Obama and House Republicans would push through a trio of NAFTA-style job-killing trade agreements that even the government’s own studies show will increase the U.S. trade deficit.

This represents a complete flip-flop for President Obama, who won crucial swing states by pledging to overhaul our flawed trade policies. So it is no surprise that a sizeable majority of Democrats in Congress voted against these agreements, against Obama and for American jobs.

Today a larger share of House Democrats voted against a Democratic president on trade than ever before. It took Bill Clinton nearly eight years of NAFTA job losses, sell outs and scandals to have nearly two-thirds of the House Democrats vote against him on trade.

Given the strong Democratic opposition, ultimately it was the Tea Party GOP freshmen who passed these job-killing deals despite their campaign commitments at home to stand up for Main Street businesses, against more job offshoring and for Buy American requirements. The three pacts explicitly ban Buy America procurement policies. The Korea FTA is projected to increase the trade deficit, with seven U.S. industrial sectors hardest hit and job losses of 159,000 in its first seven years.

Members of Congress that voted for these job-killing agreements – backed by Wall Street and America’s most notorious job-offshoring corporations and harmful to American workers, small business and consumers – will face a reckoning as the damage of these pacts hits home. We promise to closely track and publicize every development.

Everyone is asking what the Obama administration could have been thinking to push the sorts of NAFTA-style trade deals that polls show majorities of Democrats, Independents and even GOP voters oppose as job killers, especially after the lesson of the 1993 NAFTA vote, when a Democratic president’s blurring of the distinctions between the parties on trade and jobs caused a disgruntled base to stay home. 

Every election cycle, more Democrats and GOP are campaigning against these sorts of NAFTA-style trade pacts. Given this and the high unemployment rate, it will be very rough for those officials who then betrayed folks at home and voted for these deals loved only by Wall Street and job-offshoring corporations.

Record of Congressional Democratic Opposition to Democratic Presidents on Trade Pacts

- 82.3% of House Democrats opposed the Colombia FTA (158 Democrats against, 31 for)

- 67.7% of House Democrats opposed the Korea FTA  (130 Democrats against, 59 for)

- 64.1% of House Democrats opposed the Panama FTA (123 Democrats against, 66 for)

- 60.6% of Democrats opposed NAFTA (1993)

- 35% opposed the WTO (1994)

- 65.56% opposed China PNTR (2000)


Record of Congressional Democratic Opposition to GOP Presidents on Trade Pacts

- 62.6% opposed the Chile FTA (2003)

- 62.14% opposed the Singapore FTA (2003)

- 41.3% opposed the Australia FTA (2004)

- 39.32% opposed the Morocco FTA (2004)

- 92.6% opposed the Central America Free Trade Agreement (2005)

- 40.4% opposed the Bahrain FTA (2005)

- 87.6% opposed the Oman FTA (2006)

- slightly more than half opposed the Peru FTA (2007)

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House Dems Take White House to Task

Check out this powerful speech by Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine), a fair trade champion, sayin' stuff that needs to be said:


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Livetweeting the Unfair Trade Pact Trifecta

Follow us on Twitter @pcgtw.Going on now!

Also, check out Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting's take on the press coverage around the FTAs, and Glenn Hurowitz over at HuffPost on the awful political calculus the adminstration made by taking up these deals.

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Obama Shifts Away From Jobs Message to Promote Bush-Signed Trade Pacts Projected by Official Government Studies to Increase Trade Deficit

Statement of Lori Wallach, Director, Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch

It is bizarre that President Barack Obama has switched from his long-awaited focus on jobs to spending effort passing three George W. Bush-signed, NAFTA-style trade deals that official government studies show will increase our trade deficit even as polls show most Americans oppose NAFTA-style trade pacts and recognize that they kill American jobs.

The only way these deals will pass is if congressional GOP lawmakers expose themselves to the foreseeable election attack ads and provide President Obama almost all of the votes; most congressional Democrats will oppose these deals, which are loved by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and despised by the Democratic base groups.

Apparently, the Obama team has a way to win re-election that does not involve Ohio or other industrial swing states. We saw with NAFTA in 1993 the dire political consequences of a Democratic president blurring distinctions between the parties on this third-rail issue of trade and jobs. And unlike NAFTA, this time, even official government studies show that these pacts will increase our trade deficit.

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Trade disaster: Congress votes tomorrow

A message from Lori Wallach, Director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch

You don't hear from me often. Over the past year, I have spend most of my time on Capitol Hill, meeting with members of Congress, educating them about our current flawed trade policy and how we can create a trade model that works.

I have been working to get a majority on Congress to say NO to the three devastating NAFTA-style trade deals signed by Pres. Bush that now Pres. Obama is trying to ram through Congress.

But today, I urgently need a favor from you. It will take about five minutes. Congress will vote on these job-killing, unsafe-import-flooding deals on Wednesday. I need you to pick up the phone and call 1-800-718-1008 right now to stop the three unfair trade deals with Korea, Colombia, and Panama.

Take 5 minutes to save jobs. Dial 1-800-718-1008 and tell your Representative to vote NO on all three flawed trade deals.

Here’s why:

  • The Korea trade deal is the largest offshoring deal of its kind since NAFTA. If approved, the deal will displace 159,000 American jobs in the first seven years. Even the official U.S. government study on the Korea pact says that it would increase our trade deficit, and it hits the "jobs of the future” sectors hardest – solar, high speed trains, computers. [Learn more]
  • We should have never even discussed a new trade deal with Colombia, the world capital for violence against workers. More unionists are assassinated every year than in the rest of the world combined. In 2010, 51 trade unionists were assassinated. Do you think we would consider a trade deal with a county where 51 CEOS were murdered? So far in 2011, another 22 have been killed, despite Colombia’s heralded new "Labor Action Plan.” [Learn more]
  • The Panama agreement has many of the same problems as the other two deals -- undercutting the reregulation of the big banks and speculators who destroyed our economy and empowering foreign investors to attack U.S. health, safety, labor and environmental laws before foreign tribunals. But, Panama is also one of the world’s largest tax havens. There, rich U.S. individuals and over 400,000 corporations take advantage of the offshore financial center, many dodging paying the taxes our communities desperately need. This FTA would undercut our current tools to fight tax dodging and money laundering. [Learn more]

Stop the trade deals that replicate the failed policies of the past. Call your Representative today.

Behind the scenes and throughout the country, our team has done everything we can do to try and get through to the leaders in Congress to stop these trade agreements. But it looks like many of our leaders in Washington—both Democrats and Republicans—are siding with corporate lobbyists instead of learning from the experience of working Americans.

YOU know the reality of these trade deals better than corporate lobbyists—and Congress needs to listen to you.

Please call 1-800-718-1008 right now.

Speak out with millions of Americans against the job-killing trade deals that only reward fat cats, off-shore our jobs and undermine our environmental and financial stability safeguards.

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Lori Wallach on HuffPo: "Obama Flip-Flopped Off Trade Cliff"

Check out Lori Wallach's latest piece on the Huffington Post.


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Obama Flip-Flopped Off Trade Cliff

"Apparently, Obama has a plan for winning re-election that does not involve Ohio... oh, and he is tired of talking about job CREATION..."

Read the entire piece at the Huffington Post.

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Obama Just Flip-Flopped Right off the Trade Cliff; Congress Must Slam on the Brakes

Statement of Lori Wallach, Director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch

By asking Congress to approve three NAFTA-style trade deals signed by former President George Bush, President Barack Obama has completely flip-flopped on his campaign promises to fix America’s failed trade policy and has cast his lot against the majority of the American people who oppose more of these job-killing deals.

At a time of 9 percent unemployment and broad public opposition to more NAFTA-style trade agreements, it’s a fairly shocking shift away from the president’s job-creation message to suddenly call on Congress to pass three old Bush trade deals that the federal government’s own studies say will increase the U.S. trade deficit.

The Korea FTA is the most economically significant since NAFTA, is projected to increase our trade deficit in key “jobs of the future” sectors such as computers, high speed trains and solar and result in the loss of an additional 159,000 U.S. jobs.

Congress should not even be considering a trade deal with Colombia, where scores of trade unionists, human rights defenders and Afro-Colombians are murdered or displaced from their lands every year and conditions have worsened since the administration signed off on an unenforceable “Labor Action Plan.” At a time when America is trying to reduce the national debt, Congress should not be considering a trade deal with Panama, a notorious tax-haven where U.S. firms and wealthy individuals go to dodge their taxes.

These trade deals replicate the mistakes of the past, not the way to win the future, and thus pose serious policy and political perils. Poll after poll shows that the vast majority of the American public – across stunningly diverse demographics – is opposed to more of these NAFTA-style trade deals and that members of Congress vote for them at their peril. Even White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley, whose job it is to sell these trade deals and who helped former President Bill Clinton sell NAFTA to a skeptical Congress, recognized that workers “lose from these agreements,” and implied that campaigning against free trade agreements could even be an electoral advantage. ( “White House’s Daley seeks balance in outreach meeting with manufacturers,” The Washington Post, June 16, 2011).

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