The Nation: "Dems Sell Out on Trade"

Pretty harsh words in this upcoming editorial in The Nation magazine:

When Democratic and Republican leaders announce they have fashioned a "historic" bipartisan compromise on trade, put your hand over your wallet. It probably means somebody has been sold out. In this case, we think it's the broad coalition of citizens--labor and environmental advocates and others--who want to reform corporate-led globalization. That includes all those voters who, last fall, elected new Democrats who promised to confront the multinational establishment. These insurgent forces have been pushed into a corner by the Democratic leadership's "free trade" gambit. We urge them to push back--hard--and defeat the agreement if they can.

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Ranchers and Cattlemen against deal, against Fast Track

R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America, May 15, 2007

Peru, Panama Trade Deals Don’t Address Cattle Industry Concerns

Washington, D.C. – Last week, the House Ways and Means Committee (Committee) announced it had reached an agreement with the Administration regarding the Peru and Panama Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) that would allow both deals to move forward through Congress. Unfortunately, the Committee included absolutely no language that would address U.S. agricultural concerns – specifically those of the U.S. live cattle industry – and none of the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR’s) fact sheets deal with agricultural concerns either.

[the rest of the text after the jump]

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Talking points on deal

This is a resource that should be helpful for those of you who are not waiting to get your communities and groups organized to let your voices be heard on the deal frosting on the poison NAFTA cake.

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Machinists: no more flawed deals, labor provision concerns too

Machinists Union Opposed to More Flawed Trade Deals
Washington, D.C.

May 14, 2007 - The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) today announced it will vigorously oppose any trade deal that fails to fully incorporate internationally recognized labor standards as defined by the International Labor Organization (ILO) Conventions.

“The actual text of the agreement has not yet been made available and widely varying reports of its contents raise serious and troubling questions,” said IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger. “Any agreement must be clear and unambiguous with respect to all of its provisions.”

Based on initial reports, the IAM is highly suspicious that the trade deal is seriously deficient in many respects. In addition to concerns over internationally recognized labor standards and adequate enforcement mechanisms, the IAM is also raising questions over other provisions of the proposed trade deal, including procurement and investment issues.

“The Machinists Union will vigorously oppose any trade agreement that does not benefit our members,” said IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger. “This Administration has demonstrated all too often its unwillingness to defend workers’ interests and enforce our trade laws.”

The IAM is one of the largest industrial trade unions in the U.S., representing more than 700,000 active and retired members under more that 4,000 contracts in transportation, aerospace, manufacturing, shipbuilding, electronics and defense related industries. For more information, visit www.goiam.org.

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Enviros: deal "not a sufficient template"

Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, Defenders of Wildlife and Earthjustice on the deal:

it is not a sufficient template for trade agreements generally or for presidential trade negotiating authority. FTAs will still provide foreign corporations the right to directly attack public health and environmental measures, and will not fully protect environmental laws from other trade challenges.

They go on to note that it's pretty difficult to trust a deal with a president who "has established the worst environmental record in modern history."

UPDATE: Carl Pope of the Sierra Club, on his blog, reiterates enviros' analysis that "we are starting from such a bad baseline -- trade deals which are neither free nor fair -- that we have a long way to go, much further than Washington has agreed to this week."

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Korean Americans against deal

As we've written here, the Dems and adminstration officials that "did the deal" are being very fuzzy about whether Thursday's announcement paves the way for other FTAs, including Korea. The group leading the charge against the Korea FTA - Korean-Americans for Fair Trade - released this statement criticizing the deal.

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Krugman on deal's soft bigotry

Tasini and Sirota have already responded to the column by Paul Krugman, who was on the Laura Flanders's Radio Nation show on Air America with me Saturday night.

Tasini takes Krugman to task for claiming that Democratic base group "furor subsided a bit " (it hasn't), and for raising the misleading specter of "old-fashioned protectionism" (because NO ONE in the trade debate is advocating blanket tariff protection, not even small manufacturers who would probably benefit from it). Meanwhile, Sirota praises Krugman for acknowledging that “fears that low-wage competition is driving down U.S. wages have a real basis in both theory and fact."

My take on Krugman's piece can be summarized by, "You've come a long way, baby." Krugman made his name as a trade economist who rigorously showed that countries can use protection to shelter their infant industries until they build up economies of scale, and that this can actually lead to increasing gains for everyone - pretty much the opposite of what a lot of economics orthodoxy believed at the time. Still, he pulled back from aligning with anyone who was calling for more active (i.e. not even necessarily protectionist) government policies on trade.

Actually, Krugman's non-involvement allows him to note the forest that a lot of Washington groups focused on the minor trade legislative trees can't or won't:

Realistically, ... labor standards won’t do all that much for American workers. No matter how free third-world workers are to organize, they’re still going to be paid very little, and trade will continue to place pressure on U.S. wages...

By all means, let’s have strong labor standards in our pending trade agreements, and let’s approach proposals for new agreements with an appropriate degree of skepticism. But if Democrats really want to help American workers, they’ll have to do it with a pro-labor policy that relies on better tools than trade policy. Universal health care, paid for by taxing the economy’s winners, would be a good place to start.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the most generous thing you can say about the deal. That some micro reforms were brought on by the latest deal, but in the absence of minimum wage boosts, Employee Free Choice Act and other labor law reform, labor will not be better off AND more NAFTA-like trade policy will continue to put downward pressure on wages. Again, is further NAFTA expansion the one legacy item Democrats want to be campaigning on next year?? It seems ridiculous.

The Krugman piece is just the latest in a series of interventions that are trying to really raise the debate beyond micro reforms towards a real progressive ASK on national policy. For some other great interventions in this vein of eliminating the soft bigotry of low policy expectations, visit our friends at Inclusion.

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Health groups bash process and substance of "deal"

Health Gap, Essential Action and Student Global AIDS Campaign - some of the nation's leading groups fighting for access to life-saving medicines - have released a statement bashing the process and substance of the "deal." Their conclusion, even with the "deal" fixes, the FTAs "restrict rather than expand access to lifesaving medicines." Read the full analysis after the jump.

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Outline not guaranteed to be final deal

A detailed outline of the "deal" has been posted in Dem-speak at MyDD and in GOP-speak at USTR. Sources have told me that these were "de-classified" Thursday for the first time, after the press conference was held. They had circulated widely on the Hill on Friday.

It's important to emphasize that these are each party's description of the principles they say they think will go into a final deal. As I've written about here and elsewhere on the blog,

  • It doesn't mean that the final legal text that is still being held secret somewhere will reflect what most people would take from the spin on this outline.
  • It doesn't mean that these provisions, if they're made to mirror the spin in the outline, will not be in the form of "side letter" rather than the core text. Bush's people have said they might "skin this cat" in a variety of ways.
  • On a related point, it doesn't mean that the agreements will be re-opened and renegotiated.
  • It doesn't mean that Peru, Panama or any other country will accept the changes.
  • It doesn't guarantee that the outline provisions will make it into implementing legislation for these pacts at the end of the day. As past trade votes have shown, there are many many "bumps" along the way.

Some sources I trust say that they have reason to trust that all the parties trust each other that trustworthy reassurances have been made between Bush, senior Democrats and the Peruvian government that this outline will be the final outcome.  Okay. But then, we were also told during the election campaign that there would be no more Bush trade deals, and all the secrecy over the last few months do not inspire much confidence. And in any case, the outline provisions are not all that, as is described in some basic detail here. We will be going into excruciating detail on these points in the coming days.

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Bush has posted his version of the deal

Bush has posted his version of the deal's different provisions over here. They're calling these "fact sheets" the FINAL deal. I'm no lawyer, but it seems like they would have to look a mite more, well, legal if they're gonna be the final text.

Will give some commentary later.

UPDATE: Some comments.

  • The investment "deal" achieves absolutely nothing. The investment issue - i.e. the massive expansion of corporate rights that was a defining feature of NAFTA - was a critical fix demanded by every base group and their mother. Despite not being a lawyer, I know that adding anything to the "preambular language" is meaningless. Preambles in trade law serve the function of telling someone that "it's for your own good" before kicking their guts out - it doesn't really matter what you say before you punch them - they're punched just the same.
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Dorgan offers some clarity

Read fair trader Sen. Byron Dorgan's (D-N.D.) take on Thursday's foul fiesta, the deadly Bush embrace, the quixotic celebration... after the jump.

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No line, no green light

If there's a lesson for fair trade groups coming out of the last few day's events, it's be careful how you word your press releases on major events. The press continues to misinterpret labor's position on the "deal." See this piece from McClatchy:

Organized labor gave qualified support Friday to a deal between the White House and congressional Democrats that includes new language on labor and the environment in four pending free-trade agreements...

Despite lukewarm support, experts such as David Lewis, a trade consultant with Manchester Trade, a lobbying and advisory firm, believe Democrats will support deals that include the new labor language.

"I think the Democrats got a green light from the AFL-CIO or it wouldn't happen . . . substantively speaking, the Democrats have their people in line,'' said Lewis, adding that current text on intellectual property protections may erode some GOP support.

Again, let's go back to labor's press releases here, here and here. There is no endorsement, no green light, no line people are queuing up to. There is a difference in tone - especially between the Change to Win unions and the AFL-CIO, maybe a lack of total clarity - but no endorsement.

Nonetheless, a valuable political lesson emerges. While most of Corporate America did not bother to wait to read the actual legal text of the deal to start praising it, progressives have decided to play the academic game and wait to react. (To their defense, the fact that the unhappy camping trip was just announced on Thursday evening didn't help with clarity and turnaround time - which was maybe the point of the Bush-Sr. Dem team doing it that way.) Whether planned or not, this difference largely explains the press coverage we're witnessing.

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Action item - the cake is rotten

Last November, Americans loudly rejected the Bush administration's more-of-the-same NAFTA expansion trade policy. The majority-making Democratic freshman class won by committing to end Bush's trade war on the middle class and force new rules for a fairer global economy.

But, shockingly, last night Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined the White House and congressional Democrats and Republicans in charge of trade to announce a "deal." The deal would facilitate passage of at least Bush's NAFTA expansions for Peru and Panama. The deal involves adding stronger labor and environmental standards, but falls way short of de-NAFTA-fying those two trade agreements by removing the bans on anti-off-shoring and Buy America policies, or the outrageous foreign investor rights that facilitate off-shoring and attacks on our health and environmental laws. It's a scenario where some truly tasty icing has been spread over a deeply rotten cake.

That's just the teaser from our action item - click here to read the rest and take action.

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Unhappy camping

Fortune magazine has a pretty revealing blow by blow of Thursday's deal.

  • Rangel thinks he can pull "more than 100" Democratic votes to his side.
  • Levin was the last to sign off on the deal, and he was only called in on Thursday afternoon.
  • On Thursday midday, Schwab describes senior Dem's maneuvers as taking the "balance of happy and unhappy campers." Fortune reports: "In the end, there were enough happy campers to announce a deal from Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office."
  • The Bush administration firmly believes Fast Track is just around the corner: "The real key is that we have created the path to move ahead and get fast track," said Schwab.

This is the first press account to show how really premeditated this deal was. Given the reaction of labor and other groups that we've blogged about, you gotta think a lot of us weren't even told about the camping trip.

Elsewhere, Peter Goodman in The Washington Post takes stock of the universal opposition to this deal from Democratic constituency and even small business groups. (Although he wrongly says that the deal got "labor backing" from John Sweeney. I see no endorsement here.) His summary?

Taken as a whole, the response to the deal, the highest-profile cooperation between the two parties since the Democrats captured Congress in November, underscored how trade is likely to remain a volatile and divisive issue heading into next year's presidential election.

Yeah, and it's likely to be a very harmful issue for the Democrats' re-election prospects. You pretty much can't kick your number one "get out the vote" constituency and expect to come out the better for it.

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Change to Win and Grassroots groups respond to deal

Workers Oppose Bush-Congress Trade Deal

The following is a statement by Anna Burger, Chair of Change to Win:

WASHINGTON DC -- “On behalf of the six million members of Change to Win unions and its Leadership Council, we are disappointed that House Democratic leaders joined with the Bush Administration yesterday to announce a trade deal that is more free than fair.

The agreement does not represent the basis for the type of new U.S. trade policy that this nation desperately needs. Despite improvements in labor and environmental standards, workers remain at risk because the proposal fails to address how to protect U.S. jobs or create new ones. It undermines our prevailing wage and Buy America laws. And it hands foreign firms operating here more privileges over U.S. companies. For working America, that is not a deal.

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Teamsters: Deal "Sells Out American Workers"

TEAMSTERS OPPOSE TRADE DEAL THAT SELLS OUT AMERICAN WORKERS

Official Statement By Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa (Washington, D.C.) –

Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa released the following statement today about new trade policy guidelines forged by the Bush administration and House Democratic leaders in Congress:

To my great disappointment, Democratic leaders in the House joined with the Bush administration yesterday to announce a trade “deal” that sells out American workers.

I am baffled as to why there is such eagerness to give this president -- who is unwilling to enforce current labor and trade laws -- a victory by continuing to pass more NAFTA/CAFTA-like trade models that send good-paying jobs overseas. 

The deal, which is wrongly dubbed “A New Trade Policy For America,” does nothing to protect American jobs or help create more jobs at home. The race to the bottom will only continue.

Therefore, this “deal” is NO DEAL for the Teamsters or American workers, and we will fight like hell to oppose this shortsighted agreement.

There are many members of Congress who know the reality of having their communities destroyed and broken as a result of bad trade and globalization policies. So I question why there was so much urgency to have a “deal,” especially without the support and backing of all of organized labor and the workers we represent.

We are pleased that these negotiations have resulted in enforceable labor and environmental chapters, including making core International Labor Organization standards enforceable. But this will not prevent the offshoring of jobs, nor will it lead to the creation of jobs. The Democratic majority should have delivered more to American workers.

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AFL-CIO, Steelworkers and Sen. Sherrod Brown statements

Statement by AFL-CIO President John Sweeney on U.S. Trade Policy Developments May 11, 2007

America's trade policy has been broken for decades.  Living standards have been depressed.  Families have been squeezed.  Our trade deals have cost millions of jobs and encouraged exploitation of workers and the environment. 

Read Sweeney, USWA, and Brown statements after the jump

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Skinning Cats with Prison Labor

Congress Daily's Martin Vaughan reported today on a press call with U.S. trade officials who made two things very clear: First, no one should expect that the promised FTA fixes will be incorporated into the text of the agreement. To wit,

They said only that those changes will not be made through a "quote, side letter, endquote," and that they will be "legally binding." Said one official: "There are multiple ways to skin a cat ... To the extent that a side letter is not legally binding, it will not be a side letter."

When is a side letter not a side letter? Don't remember that one from my Zen koan class... I do remember this report, however, which Brandon, Alyssa and I wrote a few years ago showing how sideCat_skin_2 letters and side deals are a very, very stupid way of accomplishing any policy objectives.

Martin also reports that the lovely folks at the National Association of Manufacturers have gotten a looksie at the final language and are still not at all worried about the labor text - a bad sign if you are a LABORER of any kind.

First, according to NAM, the "deal" doesn't obligate countries to abide by the ILO core labor rights conventions themselves, only a watered down 1998 "declaration" on the conventions. Second, only federal laws apply, so (breathe easy) things like U.S. prison labor and Southern states' "right to work" laws "will not be subject to challenge." (Gee, I really hope a Peruvian state or locality doesn't pass some kind of law legalizing child labor in the state!) And to put just a little rotten icing on the rotten cake, negotiators agreed to not eliminate an FTA provision "that gives countries leeway not to enforce labor laws at their own 'discretion.'"

Is the room spinning, or did a few Democrats just sign up for something that does not sound that sweet, or that, well, Democratic?

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Bloomberg TV covering "deal"

Shortly after 2 pm EST. You can watch here. Special guest: our own Lori Wallach.

UPDATE: On the show, the host gave Deputy USTR Karan Bhatia several opportunities to respond to two issues of major concern for fair trade groups:
1. Is this a "deal" on just Peru and Panama, or will it extend to Colombia and South Korea? Bhatia did not unequivocally state that the deal was limited to Peru and Panama. Similar to some other press statements over the last 24 hours, it seems that the line here is getting about as blurry as it can get, with different folks saying different things.
Nailslips 2. Will the amendments outlined in the "deal" be written into the core text of totally renegotiated agreements? Here too, Bhatia was non-commital, saying the first task is to "share" with the potential FTA partner countries what has been discussed in Washington.

Neither of these things is making the "deal" look too good. In Lori's words from the show, the partial fixes in the "deal" look like "icing on a rotten cake."

UPDATE 2: You can watch the video HERE.

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Democratic process?

Here's a few more things I thought I'd point out. Molly Hennessy-Fiske at The Los Angeles Times reports that

Rep. Betty Sutton of Ohio, one of 71 freshman Democrats to sign a letter earlier this year urging Rangel not to compromise 'fair trade' principles, was 'frustrated' that she and other new legislators were not consulted about the compromise, her staff said. Six House Democrats, including Linda T. Sanchez of Lakewood, sent a letter late Thursday to the chairman of the party caucus, Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, asking him and other caucus leaders not to endorse the new policy until they reviewed the fine print.

And Jim Abrams at The Associated Press reports that

A half-dozen House Democrats with strong labor ties, watching the news conference from the back of the room, later expressed strong dissatisfaction with the process. "The strongest voices for workers and the environment were not included" in the negotiations and were not informed of the deal, said Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio. "I'm very disappointed that Speaker Pelosi held a press conference before meeting with the caucus," said Rep. Michael Michaud, D-Maine. "In a democratic process Democrats ought to know."

Finally, Inside U.S. Trade reports that Rangel plans to pass the deals with a minority of the Democratic majority and a majority of the GOP minority:

Rangel said the agreement as now outlined would garner sufficient Democratic votes to pass the Peru and Panama agreement, though not a majority of the caucus. Asked if Pelosi’s backing of the deal would make the votes on these agreements a leadership vote that would be formally whipped, he said that would not be necessary because there would be sufficient votes for passage. He said an issue only rises to a leadership vote if the vote is a tight one.

Note that on the LA Times piece: instead of "71 freshmen Democrats," this should read "71 freshmen and senior Democrats," in reference to an April letter. A January letter by just freshmen garnered 39 member signatures — over 95 percent of the class.

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Blog Round up on "deal"

Wonkette's one-liner, however, is pretty priceless: "White House caves, will sign trade deals that allow overseas workers two bathroom breaks per day."

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Labor process? Labor content?

Reports are streaming in constantly to our headquarters, and I thought I would share two very interesting findings from Inside U.S. Trade (sorry, not linkable).

First, on whether labor had been consulted:

Both Pelosi and Rangel acknowledged that they had gotten no feedback from labor groups on the agreement and Rangel said he understood that the AFL-CIO was still seeking the reaction from its union president. But Pelosi emphasized that she and Rangel had consulted with labor at the beginning of the process and insisted that the agreement announced at 6 pm had literally been reached that afternoon. But an opponent of the deal expressed doubts that the press conference involving Schwab and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson along with the senior members of the House leadership, as well as the leadership of the New Democrat Coalition, could have been brought together within an hour’s notice. This source speculated that the announcement might have been made on May 10 to head off an expected announcement by the Teamsters that they will oppose the deal.

Second, on whether the labor "deal" will even be in the agreement's text:

The agreement is to have “legally binding” labor and environmental standards in FTAs, but there is no consensus on whether that means reopening those FTAs already signed. House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee Chairman Sander Levin (D-MI) said he does not see how there can be a legally binding obligation without reopening already signed agreements. But Schwab said for Peru and Colombia, the U.S. could insert the obligations into the implementing language… Similarly, Ranking Ways and Means Committee Member Jim McCrery (R-LA) said the threshold of legally binding could be met by either having Peru reopen its agreement or finding another way.

We'll be posting more as we get it...

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Deal or no deal morning news roundup

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More on deal...

Will be posting more later but in the meantime check out www.mydd.com and www.davidsirota.com.

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What's the Bush deal?

This from over the wires... we'll be updating when we know more...

***  Media Advisory  ***

Pelosi, Administration Officials, and Bipartisan Congressional Leaders to Make Major Announcement on Free Trade Agreements Today

Washington, D.C. - Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Bush Administration officials, bipartisan Congressional leaders to make an announcement on free trade agreements today, Thursday, May 10, at 6 p.m.

WHO:          Speaker Nancy Pelosi
                   Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson, Jr.
                   U.S. Trade Representative Susan C. Schwab
                   Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus
                   House Ways & Means Chairman Charles B. Rangel
                   House Ways & Means Ranking Member Jim McCrery
                   Members of House Leadership
                   Bipartisan Members of the House               

WHAT:        Press Conference on Free Trade Agreements
WHEN:        Thursday, May 10, at 6 p.m.

WHERE:      H-122, The Capitol, Washington, DC             

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