As the Dust Starts to Settle...

Lori and I have a new piece up on Foreign Policy in Focus. Here's a teaser:

As the dust starts to settle from the historic election of our nation's first African-American president and first president who ran on fair trade, we have some time to contemplate other impressive changes voters brought to Congress. At least 41 new fair-traders were elected to House and Senate seats, which represent a net gain of 33 in Congress' overall economic justice contingent. This comes on top of the 37 net fair-trade pick-ups in the 2006 congressional elections. These new members campaigned to oppose further NAFTA-style agreements and advocate for positive alternatives that ensure widely shared prosperity. Obama himself made many fair-trade commitments, including a pledge to replace "fast track" trade negotiating authority, renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, and oppose a NAFTA-like pact with Colombia.

In 2009, the U.S. government will be squarely in the hands of people who have contemplated the global economic architecture built up through the administrations of Presidents Ronald Reagan through George W. Bush, and found it fundamentally flawed. Or at least they have realized that an overwhelming majority of Americans have had it with the current "race to the bottom" trade and globalization status quo — and are systematically voting for those who join them in demanding change and against those who want more of the same.

Either way, this is a good thing not only for the millions of people living in this country who have their jobs offshored, wages stagnate, and environmental and consumer protections gutted by current trade policies, but for the billions of people worldwide who have suffered under our country's worldwide exportation of this model.

And Jane Bussey from the Miami Herald reports,

Obama's platform specifically staked out a shift in the trade agenda.

His program included a position that no future bilateral trade agreement could ''stop the government from protecting the environment, food safety or the health of its citizens,'' among other issues.

Republican presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain, gained little traction with his strong stand in favor of NAFTA and CAFTA, which also includes the Dominican Republic.

Although free trade accords have been narrowly approved for the past two decades -- always with bipartisan support and even when a Democratic president sat in the White House, trade analysts believe the status quo is unlikely to continue...

''The election gives a stronger voice to those who say past agreements have not gone far enough, and the current economic problems can drive us to place more emphasis on domestic programs and less on international agreements and incentives,'' said Gilbert Lee Sandler, one of the founding partners of Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg, a Miami-based law firm that specializes in trade issues.

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With Begich, we're up to 41 new fair traders!

It was just announced that Anchorage mayor Mark Begich (D) defeated Sen. Ted Stevens (R) for the Alaska Senate seat. Begich made strong fair-trade statements on his website, and his win brings our total new fair traders in Congress up to 41, or a net shift of 33, in the 2008 elections. This means that the 2006-2008 shift is up to 70.

With at least six races still uncalled, there may still be changes to our total count. But you can find the latest 58-page report and 37-page appendix on our website, which includes the Alaska races. As we state in our newly updated report:

In conservative Alaska, Democrat Mark Begich defeated Republican incumbent Sen. Ted Stevens with a platform that called for trade reform. Of course Stevens’ ethics scandal was the prominent focus of the campaign in the closing months. However, the trade issue played with Alaska’s conservative voters in a similar way as seen elsewhere in the west. Alaska’s economy bears little resemblance to that of the Rustbelt. Employment is2680172657_97160348a6 concentrated in service and extractive industries that are rarely affected by imports in the same way foreign textile imports might affect that domestic industry. But concerns over local and national control of policy are important, and in fact Stevens and his House colleague Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) had a history of opposing the WTO and other trade policies based on sovereignty concerns. Neither, however, had voted the fair-trade position since 2003.

Begich’s campaign sensed an opening, and his website said
, “NAFTA has not worked as predicted, costing an estimated 1 million American jobs. NAFTA, CAFTA and the bilateral free trade agreements negotiated by the Bush administration have helped big business while hurting middle class Americans. Mark believes fair trade policies should include meaningful and fully enforceable consumer, labor, environmental and human rights protections. He favors a tax code that rewards companies for creating jobs in America, not that take those jobs abroad. International trade can be good for Americans, and is a vital part of Alaska’s economy, but it needs to serve middle class families, not just multi-national corporations.”

[Thanks CitizenChunk for taking the awesome photo. Click here for some more great ones.]

Word of the fair-trade election victory is getting around. Joseph Schatz at CQ has written about it, Bridges over in the EU ran something on it, David Sirota has written about it his latest column and elsewhere, and Bill Lambrecht at The St. Louis Post Dispatch also weighed in. In a wire story by Jim Abrams that is making the rounds at the NYT, WP, IHT, Guardian, Newsweek and elsewhere:

The election of Barack Obama has delivered a decisive victory to "fair traders," mainly Democrats and their allies who for years have contended that the free-trade policies of past administrations were recipes for American job losses and environmental degradation.

Obama's win marks the first time in modern American history "that a candidate advocating a shift in our trade policies in a decisively pro-worker, pro-consumer, pro-environment direction has been elected president," Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, an advocacy group that is critical of free trade agreements, said in a report.

On the other side, Dan Griswold, director of the center for trade policies at the pro-trade Cato Institute, was equally stark in his assessment: "We are going to see the U.S. retreat from its long-standing leadership in the global economy."         

Of course, there is both life and leadership after the WTO model. One way that climate groups are suggesting Obama could claim the mantle of global leadership - and rebuild significant good will in developing nations - is to lead a global effort to establish a "green carve-out" in WTO rules that would allow countries to pursue cap-and-trade programs, green subsidies and procurement, and other carbon-reducing policies without being subject to WTO challenge or sanction.

A similar move has already been made on public-health matters in 2001. As we suggest in a recent fact sheet, an Obama-led green overhaul of the WTO would be one way to stop to avoid the planetary heat, and stop the WTO chill... not to mention a great first step on global leadership by putting climate ahead of commerce.

[UPDATE: For more on this issue, we've re-released our analysis of how WTO rules will need to be overhauled to accomodate Obama's climate and health plans. See our new press release after the jump.]

Continue reading "With Begich, we're up to 41 new fair traders!" »

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Corporate lobby group attempts to debunk our study

For the second election cycle in a row, we've released a nearly 100 page study analyzing the role of trade in the congressional races, and for the second cycle in a row, a corporate lobby group has attempted to debunk the main findings. The group, the National Foreign Trade Council, is one of the prime groups fighting fair trade policies in the U.S., including state level efforts to divest from brutal regimes in Sudan and elsewhere.

Jay Heflin at Congress Now picked up this story last week, and here's how he reported on what we told him:

When contacted about the NFTC's study, Public Citizen deputy director Bill Holland said the group made a similar claim after the 2006 election that turned out to be incorrect.

'In 2006, they released a statement that said only 10 candidates appeared to make trade an issue in their election,' Holland said. 'Weeks later, 39 freshman sent a letter to the House Ways and Means chairman specifically saying that trade was a decisive issue in their campaigns and that they desire change in U.S. trade policy.'

That letter, dated Jan. 17, 2007, was sent to Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.). It stated, 'It is very important that we not only reverse the troubling results of the administration's trade agreements and trade policies, but also that we are able to deliver on the promise we made to our constituents to move our nation in a new and improved direction on trade.'

So, you would think that NFTC (and its affiliated group, USA Engage) might have given up on U.S. election analysis, which is clearly not their forte. Or that of their bizarre choice of researcher for their 2006 "debunk," the British Simon Evenett at the Swiss Institute for International Economics and Applied Economic Research. Interestingly, the British and Swiss are not known for their detailed birddogging work in U.S. politics.

Instead, their 2008 report is even stranger than their 2006 attempt. Not to toot our own horn, but in 2006, we spent months analyzing looked at websites, television ads, public statements, press quotes, candidate pledges, vote records (even at the state level) and beyond to sketch trade positions of over 200 incumbents, challengers, and outgoing representatives. After looking at these sources once, we did it again, and again, and again, and fleshed out a very full picture of the candidates. NFTC and Evenett appeared to spend a few days contracting an intern to do a modest search of campaign websites only - which across the country are varied in terms of their level of detail and sophistication.

But the group was apparently not embarrassed by this overwhelming gap in their research, and have pushed out a comparably shabby product this time around - even as we greatly expanded our methodology to cover a greater number of races and candidates (over 260). Among the problems with their 7 page report and press release:

Continue reading "Corporate lobby group attempts to debunk our study" »

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Fair trade state legislators head to Washington...Anti-fair traders stay home

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This past week we've been posting findings from our election report, Fair Trade Gets an Upgrade. Today, we want to take a look at how a few former state legislators fared in last week's Congressional elections, and how their support or opposition to fair trade initiatives at the state level played a role in the outcome of their campaigns.

1. Former Nevada Sen. Dina Titus, who won last week's Congressional race for Nevada's third district, not only ran paid trade ads against unfair trade practices, she also cosponsored groundbreaking legislation in the Nevada Senate to require more legislative oversight of process by which Nevada commits to certain provisions of trade agreements.

2. Former Maryland Sen. Andy Harris, who lost his bid to represent Maryland’s first district in Congress, had a history of opposing fair-trade initiatives at the state level:

Harris was one of a handful of Maryland State Senators who opposed legislation similar to what Titus proposed requiring more legislative oversight of the process by which Maryland would commit to certain provisions of trade agreements. The legislation was first proposed by the Maryland state legislature in 2005 after Governor Robert Ehrlich committed Maryland to the procurement provisions in CAFTA without consulting the Maryland legislature (which has authority over procurement decisions). Many state legislators were up in arms upon learning that their governor had committed Maryland to the procurement provisions of the pact, thus opening Maryland’s government purchasing to international competition and striking a blow to “buy local” purchasing policies, local economic development initiatives, and campaigns to ban state procurement of goods from countries with horrendous human rights records.

Despite Harris' opposition, the legislation passed with an overwhelming majority and supporters successfully overrode the Governor’s veto.

3. Although it’s still too close to call for former California Sen. Tom McClintock who is running to represent California's fourth district, he too could be reeling, in part, from a weak stance on fair trade at the state level. McClintock was skeptical of California legislators’ efforts to speak out against nasty NAFTA Chapter 11 investor-state provisions which allow companies to sue governments over state regulations that might impact profits.

According to The Washington Times, “State and local officials are jumping into the national debate on globalization, led by an unusual state legislative committee in California that scrutinizes the effect of trade agreements on individual states. Though the Constitution gives the federal government jurisdiction over international trade, this bipartisan group is worried that international trade deals threaten the American ideal of state sovereignty. In California, state activism has centered on the Select Committee on International Trade Policy and State Legislation, headed by Sen. Sheila Kuehl, a Democrat from Los Angeles. The panel has taken aim at a provision of the North American Free Trade Agreement that allows companies to seek monetary damages from governments for violations of the 1994 pact… Critics of the committee say there is little reason for it to stick its nose into an area of exclusive federal control. ‘Nobody ever lost any money underestimating the common sense of the California state legislature,’ said Republican state Sen. Tom McClintock.”

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Palin finally states NAFTA views, but cares more about jerks

Here at EOT, we were disappointed that - unlike many gubernatorial candidates in the '06 races - now-Gov. Sarah Palin (R-Alaska) never clarified her views on NAFTA or the WTO - big issues in a state very much concerned with sovereignty and local control.

And we weren't much happier when these views did not become clarified in the vice-presidential debates, whereas now-VP-elect Joe Biden had made a series of commitments on fair trade to Iowa activists in the primaries, not to mention a long voting record that was trending fair trade.

Now, as Palin goes back to Alaska, we have the first glimmer of recogniStevemartinjerk782937 tion on the trade debate, as the NYT reports...

Fox News quot[ed] unnamed McCain campaign officials as saying that Ms. Palin had not known that Africa was a continent, not a country, and claiming that she did not know which countries were covered by the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Ms. Palin told reporters in Alaska that the anonymous criticism was “cowardly,” and that she had discussed the campaign’s position on Nafta at her debate prep sessions.

“I remember having a discussion with a couple of debate preppers,” she said. “So if it came from one of those debate preppers, you know, that’s curious. But having a discussion about Nafta — not, ‘Oh my goodness, I don’t know who is a part of Nafta.’ ”

“So, no, I think that if there are allegations based on questions or comments that I made in debate prep about Nafta, and about the continent versus the country when we talk about Africa there, then those were taken out of context,” Ms. Palin said. “And that’s cruel and it’s mean-spirited, it’s immature, it’s unprofessional, and those guys are jerks, if they came away with it taking things out of context and then tried to spread something on national news. It is not fair and not right.”

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With Perriello, we're up to 40 new fair traders!!

Tom Perriello was just announced the winner of the Virginia 5th congressional district race!

Goode was actually one of the most consistent GOP fair traders  in the House, voting the fair-trade position on 15 out of 17 votes. So this campaign became one of the country's top "anti-NAFTA-offs," with both the Dem and the GOP running on fair trade.

Goode's campaign website said: “Agreements like NAFTA and the trade provisions in fast track authorization lead to the erosion of this country's vital manufacturing base. I do not favor international trade agreements such as these that result in a loss of American sovereignty and jobs.” 

Meanwhile, Perriello committed to: “Reject NAFTA-style agreements and promote fair trade. Fair trade means that imports should not be artificially cheap because of human or environmental degradation.” And in response to a Citizens Trade Campaign questionnaire, Perriello committed to oppose the WTO Doha Round and Colombia, Panama and Korea FTAs, support the renegotiation of NAFTA and replacement of Fast Track, and oppose any trade agreements that include NAFTA-style investor rights, among other commitments. And his campaign and the DCCC ran paid trade ads against incumbent Rep. Virgil Goode (R-Va.) for voting for tax breaks to ship jobs overseas.

This brings our total new fair traders in our report up to 40. (Our net number doesn't shift, since Goode was also a fair trader.)

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More on the fair-trade mandate

Over at the Guardian, Kevin Gallagher says

The Obama administration will also be pressed to keep its promise to rethink global trade policy. A core principle of a reconfigured Doha Round should be the recognition that developing countries need the policy space to deploy the kinds of government measures that have been proven to work for development in the west. Allowing poor nations to deploy such policies is not protectionism; instead, it is "correctionism" – getting the prices right by correcting for the distortions that form the core of northern trade policy.

Over at Working Life, Jonathan Tasini says

If policy was constructed by the people, not the wishes of the lobbyists and corporate interests, we would never see a so-called "free trade" deal pass Congress again. That's pretty much the upshot of the 2008 elections--though, believe me, this fight ain't over yet.

I would argue that the issue of trade was a significant factor in the sweeping victory by Democrats this past week. The focus on the economy was a broad message. But, underneath the broad topic, trade was clearly something that has penetrated deeply into the American electorate. I say this because this is now the second cycle that one can show an electoral movement on trade

Over at Manufacture This, Steve Capozzolla takes on a trade story very close to John McCain's home.

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Fair-Trade Election Gains Keep Coming In

Today's announcement that fair trader Jeff Merkley defeated anti-fair trade incumbent Gordon Smith in Oregon's Senate race is just the latest mind-blowing evidence that fair-trade issues have gone national (and beyond the Rustbelt) more than any election in our nation's modern history.

As Lori and I write on HuffPost, Merkley "shattered the conventional political wisdom by running and winning as a fair trader in the Pacific Northwest." As the latest version of our report shows, Merkley's fair-trade message helped improved his party performance against Smith in all but 2 of Oregon's 40 counties - including all the key socially conservative, working-class counties. Merkley's globalization message was perhaps the most sophisticated of any candidate in the country: a 2007 press release from early in his campaign, for instance, attacked the Peru FTA for:

Extending NAFTA’s provisions that give foreign investors more rights than Americans to sue the federal and state governments;

Enabling foreign investors to challenge American public health, environmental, zoning and labor protections in foreign courts

Blocking government procurement rules that require the hiring of U.S. workers and ‘Buy American’ provisions

Setting limits on food safety standards that require the U.S. to rely on foreign regulators and inspectors

Merkley's ads were equally hard-hitting, such as this ad where he deconstructs the phrase "free trade":

We did a press conference on the report earlier today with Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Reps.-elect Larry Kissell (D-N.C.) and Mark Schauer (D-Mich.), and Steelworkers President Leo Gerard. You can listen to the audio here. Here's our latest press release on what went down, and here's a quick snippet from the senator:

"The election results demonstrated Americans continued rejection of NAFTA style trade agreements," said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). "Ohioans figured out a long time ago that weak environmental and safety laws abroad allow toxic food, toxic trade and contaminated vitamins into their homes and as a result across the country we saw candidates who supported President Bush's trade agreements lose their races."

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37 New Fair Traders (at least)

We've got 37 new fair traders (at least) - a net increase of at least 30.

That's the conclusion of our latest report, "Fair Trade Gets an Upgrade," which analyzes the positions and ads of over 130 congressional campaigns, as well as the race for the White House.

Brandon has done a great job putting up all 130+ trade ads that were run in the races, and you can see them all here. Check out our 80 page report and appendix on the sweep here. And here's our press release:

 Trade Issues Played Unprecedented Nationwide Role in Congressional, Presidential Races, Reinforcing Public Demand for New Globalization Rules

Congress’ Views Move Closer to Public’s as at least 30 Vocal Fair-Traders Take Seats Now Held by Supporters of NAFTA-WTO Status Quo in Races Using 130+ Trade TV Ads

WASHINGTON, D.C. – From the presidency to both chambers of Congress and from traditionally “free trade” Florida to Colorado and New York to New Mexico, successful candidates in 2008 election races ran on a platform of fundamental overhaul of U.S. trade and globalization policies including a growing number of Republicans, with a net increase in Congress of at least 30 fair trade supporters, according to the new report “Fair Trade Gets an Upgrade” by Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch division. The number of fair-trade pick-ups in Congress may increase depending on the results of several races not yet called.

“The 2008 election was a veritable tipping point for fair-trade issues, which just reinforces what polls have increasingly shown: The public has had it with the current race-to-the-bottom trade and globalization model, and they voted against those who support it and for those who say they will replace it,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch division. “Public expectations after this trade-focused election create pressure to fix the existing trade agreements and policies while further marginalizing various Bush hangover proposals, such as an expansion of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to Colombia, a bilateral investment treaty with China, and more financial service liberalization through the Korea Free Trade Agreement and the World Trade Organization (WTO) Doha Round.”

A total of 33 new fair-traders won seats in the House of Representatives, which represents a net change of 26. Four new fair-trade supporters won Senate seats, a net change of four. The report includes trade positions for candidates in over 130 competitive or open seat races. Public Citizen found that in 2008, campaigning on fair trade was not solely a Democratic tactic. More than a dozen incumbent and open-seat fair-trade Republicans beat back tough primary and general election challenges by campaigning on a fair-trade platform, including with paid ads. In a dozen competitive and open seat races, both the Republican and the Democrat competed in an “anti-NAFTA off,” battling to be the most critical of the status-quo trade model.

In addition to the seats won by first-time candidates running on fair-trade platforms, 15 of the most consistently fair-trade incumbents facing tough re-election battles prevailed. The 15 incumbents with tough races voted the fair-trade position 100 percent of the time, cosponsored the Trade Reform, Accountability, Development, and Employment (TRADE) Act, or did both. They come from the Republican and Democratic Parties, from the New Democrat and Blue Dog Coalitions, from the Hispanic and Progressive Caucuses and from California to Connecticut, from Mississippi to Minnesota. The TRADE Act lays out a process to review existing pacts, renegotiate them to meet basic criteria and reform negotiating processes and substantive policies to ensure a new model of globalization and trade that can benefit more people.

“Tuesday’s electoral gains for fair-traders mark the second phase (following a 37-seat net gain by fair-traders in 2006) of an unprecedented shift in the U.S. political landscape away from the disastrous trade and globalization policies of the past,” said Todd Tucker, research director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch division. “The American public expects a serious debate around replacing the current model.”

Continue reading "37 New Fair Traders (at least)" »

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Feeling the heat to hide one's shadow

(Disclosure: Global Trade Watch has no preference among the candidates.)

Buckle in, because you are going to see a torrent of fair-trade election madness on this blog in the coming days like you've never witnessed before. Some of you will recall that we wrote the most comprehensive analyses I've seen yet of the 2006 elections, and we're about to repeat it again for the 2008 elections. We are monitoring over 120 races - over 250 candidates - for federal office, and looking at the role that trade and other pocketbook issues are playing. We'll release this nearly 100-page report (with a shorter findings section) shortly after the polls close on Wednesday.

One of our key findings is that candidates of all stripes are feeling the pressure from their constituents to run on fair-trade platforms. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel is reporting on one:

In his fifth term, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan should be very familiar to the people of southeastern Wisconsin. The Janesville Republican is an economic conservative who hasn't seen a free-trade deal he didn't like. So forgive the people of the state's 1st Congressional District if they are a little confused by Ryan's latest ad.

"People are hurting because American companies benefit by shipping jobs overseas," the 38-year-old pol says into the camera. Ryan then complains that it is "unfair" for American companies to get a tax break by producing goods elsewhere and then importing them to the U.S. "Instead of exporting jobs," he concludes, "we should be exporting American products."

That's a lot of fair-trade rhetoric from someone known as a free-trade champion...

[Sacchin] Chheda, the spokesman for the Wisconsin Fair Trade Coalition, said it sounded as if Ryan was trying to come up with "a solution to a problem he's created" by voting repeatedly for free-trade measures.

By the coalition's count, Ryan has voted 17 times for various international trade deals, including ones to lower or eliminate taxes and tariffs on trade between the U.S. and Central America, Australia and Peru. He also supported a measure to normalize trade relations with China.

"(The ad) suggests that he believes in order to honestly represent his constituents, he'd need to have the exact opposite record on these issues," Chheda said.

Elsewhere, the Wall Street Journal shows that Democrats are running on the issue too:

A slumping economy, years of stagnating wages for many workers and unease about the rise of China as an economic power are fueling popular skepticism toward free trade and buoying Democratic candidates who are seizing on anxieties about globalization...

One Republican free trader feeling the heat is Oregon Sen. Gordon Smith, who likes to remind voters that one in five jobs in the state depends on overseas trade. He has supported the North American Free Trade Agreement and voted for the Central American Free Trade Agreement. "Oregon is probably the most trade-dependent state in America," Sen. Smith said. "Portland is called Portland because it's a port."

Now Sen. Smith is scrambling to hang on to his seat, as his Democratic opponent, Jeff Merkley, hammers on the trade issue.

"They call it free trade," a recent Merkley ad says, "Problem is -- there's nothing free about it." Mr. Merkley wants legislation that would inject strict workplace safety, labor and environmental standards into future trade agreements, while requiring a review of all existing trade deals. Polls show Mr. Merkley running closely with Sen. Smith.

From Oregon to Georgia to upstate New York, skepticism about the benefits of free trade is rippling through campaigns for several House and Senate seats, many of them races where Democrats are running strong...

Most Democrats don't call for blatant protectionist measures such as steep tariffs, or a return to import quotas such as those that governed automotive trade in the 1980s. Instead, Democrats, starting with Presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, talk about the need for trade to be fair, and insist that trading partners be required to meet higher standards for environmental controls and workers' rights to unionize.

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Millionaire Mark Penn Misunderstands the Youth on Trade

That Mark Penn is at it again. After trying to revise the past on trade a few weeks ago, he is now trying to revise the present. From his Politico column:

While Bush got 45 percent of young voters in 2004, Obama is likely to open up a 20-point gap with this bloc; they grew up knowing only Bill Clinton or George W. Bush as president.

In the latest Zogby poll, Obama won the crucial moderate vote by 2-to-1, 60 percent to 30 percent. Obama wins nearly nine in 10 liberals as well, putting together a strong center-left coalition and leaving John McCain with a big margin only in the sizable conservative bloc.

In contrast, this election is scrambling the votes of  working-class and wealthier voters...

These new moderate voters are better-educated, more in tune with the information age and far removed from the traditional labor base of the Democratic Party. They are more open to trade and sensitive to tax increases. They also oppose the Iraq war, but they want to see strength in national security. They overwhelmingly will favor new energy policies for ethanol and other biofuels, solar power and wind power.

Penn makes some questionable leaps from some questionable sources. Zogby has come under fire for its poll methodology, which is not fully randomized. But, whatev. If we're citing them, it would be important to note that Zogby polls find that these so-called moderates and young voters are overwhelmingly anti-NAFTA.

Moving beyond Zogby to the more reputable Democrarcy Corps Greenberg poll,  Battleground voters of all ages are overhwhelmingly against NAFTA, with Generation Y even more so than Generation X.

There is an important generational “hump” in feelings about NAFTA in battleground states, with Gen X’ers feeling warmer than both Gen Y and Baby Boomers. All generational cohorts are nevertheless cool to NAFTA.

The hump effect disappears nationally, but all age cohorts are still overwhelmingly anti-NAFTA. By the way, the battleground states in the survey are not just Rust Belt states, but also southwest and Rocky Mountain west.

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Trade Takes Center Stage in Campaign Ads

As the clock ticks rapidly toward the November 4, 2008 elections, the evidence is increasingly irrefutable that the only path to the White House and Congress is through, and definitely NOT around, the bread-and-butter impact of the global financial crisis on American families. A recent poll release by Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times added volume to a growing chorus of voter surveys indicating that there really isn't much point in candidates skirting the issue of the "serious economic crisis" now cited by more than 75 percent of Americans.

It's hardly surprising then that the leading issue across the nation is also the leading issue in the hard-fought Midwestern swing states, where the structural shifts in the U.S. economy away from "real economy" domestic industrial production in favor of Wall Street-led financial services in recent decades has been most in evidence. A recent Ohio Newspapers poll (PDF), found that 55 percent of likely voters thought free trade agreements - such as NAFTA - have been bad for Ohio's economy, with only 17 percent saying that such agreements had been good for the economy.

With this in mind, more than 70 (and climbing) television ads in federal races feature trade this election season (more than double the 2006 ad count), making it one of the hottest items on the 2008 political stage. For just one sample, see Ohio's 15th Congressional District where both sides of the congressional race for retiring Rep. Ralph Regula's (R-Ohio) seat feature ads on trade. Democrat John Boccieri's ad promises to "fight against trade policies that ship our jobs overseas," while Republican Kurt Schuring promises "fairer trade policies that would create jobs."

Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch division will be continuing to monitor the role that trade and globalization issues play in the 2008 elections, including a full analysis of the role trade and globalization positions play in shaping the actual outcome of both the presidential and over 100 congressional races. Our Trade in the 2008 Elections report will be released the morning of November 5th, just hours after the polls close.

Disclosure: Global Trade Watch has no preference among the candidates.

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The Eye Roll Felt Around the World

In the final debate of the 2008 Presidential Election, “trade” got mentioned 20 times. The issue’s still not quite as popular as Joe the Plumber’s 26 shout outs, but at least it was discussed, albeit briefly.

The candidates first discussed NAFTA, then the issue of off-shoring and American worker displacement related to so-called "Free Trade Agreements" (FTAs). Obama stressed that “we've got to have a president who is going to be advocating on behalf of American businesses and American workers,” while McCain responded that he would support “education and training programs for displaced workers”.

And still, right after acknowledging that these FTAs are sending American jobs overseas, McCain proposed that the Colombian FTA would actually “help us create jobs in America because they will be a market for our goods and products”.

Obama missed the opportunity to further discuss the fundamental problems with FTAs by expressing ardent support for the Peru FTA, but he did bring up human-rights issues with the Colombian FTA. “The history in Colombia right now is that labor leaders have been targeted for assassination on a fairly consistent basis and there have not been prosecutions,” Obama said, “We have to stand for human rights and we have to make sure that violence isn't being perpetrated against workers who are just trying to organize for their rights.”

Apparently McCain had some thoughts about Obama’s words on union leader assassinations, because right in the middle of Obama’s statement, McCain clearly rolled his eyes at the comment!

Though Obama brought up the union killings, this still shows that it’s not clear that either candidate is completely aware of the real situation in Colombia. Constant protests and violence, Afro-Colombian and indigenous persecution, Uribe-infused misinformation by the media, and all around suppression of basic human rights and freedoms. These issues were glossed over with vapid attacks on both sides. McCain scolded Obama for never having visited the country while at the same time calling Colombian President Uribe “our best ally in the region”.

This is the same president who has seen 434 union leaders murdered in the first six years of being in power. This debate took place on the same day that the Colombian army wounded 60 and killed 2 while confronting an indigenous protest, one that Uribe claims is “infiltrated” with terrorists and carrying out “massacres” on police. Yet, as delineated in a recent report by Human Rights Watch, it’s not the indigenous who are infiltrated with terrorists or carrying out massacres, it’s the Uribe government. There have been multiple reports showing findings of direct connections between the Colombian government and right-wing paramilitary death squads. It is all too clear that this is a brutal government the U.S. should not directly link to and support through an FTA.

And just as a side note, Joe the Plumber--if he were really a licensed plumber--would be a member of the Plumbers and Pipefitters union (UA) which is part of the AFL-CIO. The AFL-CIO opposes the Colombian FTA and UA was in fact the first union to endorse Barack Obama.

(Disclosure: GTW has no preference among the candidates.)

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Getting trade in the debates

(Disclosure: Global Trade Watch has no preference among the candidates.)

The trade issue almost shone through in last night's presidential debate, with McCain seeming to say that he would close the trade deficit (which is around $700 billion), but then saying he thinks the U.S. is a great importer, and then bashing "protectionism."

Americans are angry, they're upset, and they're a little fearful.  It's our job to fix the problem.       Now, I have a plan to fix this problem and it has got to do with energy independence.  We've got to stop sending $700 billion a year to countries that don't want us very -- like us very much...

     The point is -- the point is that we can fix our economy. Americans' workers are the best in the world.  They're the fundamental aspect of America's economy.

     They're the most innovative.  They're the best -- they're most -- have best -- we're the best exporters.  We're the best importers. They're most effective.  They are the best workers in the world...

Well, you know, nailing down Senator Obama's various tax proposals is like nailing Jell-O to the wall.  There has been five or six of them and if you wait long enough, there will probably be another one. 

     But he wants to raise taxes.  My friends, the last president to raise taxes during tough economic times was Herbert Hoover, and he practiced protectionism as well, which I'm sure we'll get to at some point.

In other news, the Institute for America's Future and David Sirota are running a series of paid "op-ads" that are demanding that the candidates address the trade issue. Go here to get involved!

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Loser Tells us How to Run the Country

(Disclosure: Global Trade Watch has no preference among the candidates.)

Hey, remember that guy named Mark Penn? Yeah, he worked for the paramilitary-linked government of Colombia to help pass a NAFTA expansion to that country, while at the same time running a presidential campaign of someone who opposed that pact. Hey, how did that work out for that particular consultant, and that particular candidate?

Gee, I can't remember back that far. But he sounds like the kinda guy I want to take advice from. Here's what Marky Mark wrote in Politico today:

Much of today’s gridlock problems are the fault of President Bush, who in his 2000 campaign pledged to defuse partisanship but who, upon entering the White House, pushed it as far as it could go at every turn. Virtually every initiative that would have required the common-sense center to coalesce has collapsed. ... Trade and global economic policy are also a mess because the center could not win out.

And yet, freed from the constraints of the left and the right, and under the right leadership, there is a vital center waiting to enact all of these measures. If Obama wins the presidency, it will fall to him to put together coalitions that would earn congressional support. Yet even the likelihood of expanded Democratic congressional majorities does not ensure success. After all, during his first two years in office, President Bill Clinton enjoyed Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, but conservatives succeeded in 1994 by portraying his first two years as surrender to liberal big government.

During President Clinton’s next six years in office, working with Republican congressional majorities, he achieved partial immigration reform, welfare reform, a balanced budget and significant increases to the minimum wage. While some on the left denigrate these achievements as triangulation, it was actually a centrist government molded by the left and right pulls of Clinton and Republican leaders such as House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, each bound by what centrists in both parties would be willing to pass.

This brings us back to the bailout. Solving this immediate economic crisis is just a first step. America needs reform of energy policy, entitlements, immigration and health care, to name just a few pressing national problems, if it is going to remain competitive with the rest of the world in the 21st century. Free and fair trade represent further challenges.

The nation’s center could probably find solutions to all of these problems pretty quickly.

Ow, mom. This historical revisionism stuff hurts! Didn't that Bill Clinton administration Mark is talking so fondly about LOSE its congressional majorities after pushing NAFTA instead of health care? And, heChe_founding_father y, wait, didn't the Bush administration Clinton go almost its entire two terms without any Fast Track trade authority because people just didn't trust him on trade?

Most people would say something is centrist if it serves the interest and matches the view of the median voter / citizen. Folks, I don't know how many polls, and more polls, and research papers have to be published before establishment elites start realizing that a centrist position on trade is a fair-trade position. I guess when you're gunning for the Colombian gunners, your sample gets a bit skewed.

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Michigan Rout, and Latest Zogby Poll Findings

(Disclosure: Global Trade Watch has no preference among the candidates.)

In conventional wisdom, Michigan is one of the most fair-trade states in the nation. A recent poll found by a two-to-one margin, Michiganers were against NAFTA and the WTO, and the hottest congressional incumbent challengers in the state are focusing squarely on fair trade.

So what's a candidate that digs NAFTA and the WTO to do in Michigan? Apparently not compete there, according to the latest news on the McCain campaign's efforts in the state. According to the NYT:

Mr. McCain’s struggles in Michigan were clear at the campaign stop at a factory in Belleville in July, where he found himself peppered with questions about his support for free trade by workers who believe it has cost the state jobs.

At the same time, McCain has told an editorial board that he favors cutting off trade with Iran.

Obama, in a recent interview with the Detroit Free Press editorial board, said the following:

Q: You’ve been accused of flip-flopping on the issue of free trade. Some key advisers of yours — Bob Rubin, Jason Furman — have some strong pro-NAFTA, pro-free trade histories, yet you’ve said some pretty harsh anti-NAFTA things in the primaries and made what you said was a protest vote on CAFTA. … What specifically can and should the country do to distribute what you call the costs and benefits of globalization more equitably?

A: That last point you made is exactly where I stand about free trade. I am a free trade proponent. I strongly believe in it. But I also believe that my job as president is to promote free trade as a tool of American prosperity, and not simply assume that every free trade deal is a good deal for America. It’s not.

Click on the link for the full interview.

In other news, Zogby and the pro-NAFTA Inter-American Dialogue released a poll on NAFTA and the Colombia FTA this week. While there's been some criticism of the methodology of their interactive surveys, I'll summarize some of the findings here below.

  •  By margin of nearly three-to-one, likely voters believe that the United States should revise or withdraw from NAFTA. I’ll call this combination of positions the “anti-NAFTA” position.
  •  Anti-NAFTA voters outnumber pro-NAFTA (“leave it the same”) voters in every demographicDonkey_elephant group, regardless of party affiliation, region, age, race, union membership status, whether they come from a small or large town or rural area, marital and parental status, religion, gender, education and income level, passport possession status, whether they identify as being a resident of “my city or town,” “America,” or “Planet Earth,” and frequency of shopping at Wal-Mart … even voters that identify as NASCAR fans and the investor class match the pattern.
  • The demographics that most identify with anti-NAFTA sentiment were progressives (81%), liberals (71%), Democrats (71%), union members (68%) and those that never shop at Wal-Mart (66%) – which one might expect. But similarly anti-NAFTA were self-described internationalists (residents of “Planet Earth,” 71%) and Hispanics (65%). This undercuts the claim sometimes made by pundits that anti-NAFTA sentiment is motivated by xenophobia. Other particularly anti-NAFTA groups were those with incomes of between $25-35 thousand a year (67%), divorcees/widowers, and those that did not identify with Judeo-Christian religion (both 65%). These percentages factor in both pro-NAFTA and unsure/unfamiliar responses.
  • The demographics that least identify with anti-NAFTA sentiment are Asians (49%), and those that identify as conservative or very conservative in ideology (46% each). While anti-NAFTA sentiment does not garner majority support in these demographics, anti-NAFTA sentiment still outranks pro-NAFTA sentiment once the unsure/unfamiliar are excluded.
  • Speaking of which, pundits sometimes claim that most or many people are pro/unsure/unfamiliar on NAFTA, so that candidates would better off avoiding the topic. But the Zogby poll contradicts this notion. With the exception of those demographics noted above, anti-NAFTA sentiment tops 50% support for every demographic.
  • By a margin of around 2.5 to one, Catholics and voters in the armed forces are more anti- than pro-NAFTA. Both are considered important demographics in this election.

The Zogby poll also asked questions about what the U.S. Congress should do about the Colombia FTA.

  •  Anti-FTA voters (those that wanted the FTA defeated or revised) outnumbered pro-FTA voters by 2.3 to 1.
  • Anti-FTA voters outnumbered pro-FTA voters in every demographic group, regardless of party affiliation, region, age, race, union membership status, whether they come from a small or large town or rural area, marital and parental status, religion, gender, education and income level, passport possession status, whether they identify as being a resident of “my city or town,” “America,” or “Planet Earth,” and frequency of shopping at Wal-Mart … even voters that identify as NASCAR fans and the investor class match the pattern.
  • The only demographic exceptions – which were nonetheless close to evenly split were among those that identified as Republican or conservative. But voters farther to the right – the “very conservative” and “libertarian” – agreed with their more progressive fellow voters.
  •  Because of the relatively high numbers of Americans who are unfamiliar/unsure on the Colombia FTA, there were few demographic groups were the anti-FTA position topped 50%. Among those were anti-FTA topped 50% were: progressives (64%), internationalists (56%), liberals (55%), those that never shop at Wal-Mart and in civil unions (both 54%), Democrats (53%), and African-Americans (51%).

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Latest on the FTA with Republic of Damocles

(Disclosure: Global Trade Watch has no preference among the candidates.)

Rossella Brevetti of BNA reports on the status of the 3 NAFTA expansions that W. has left hanging like a sword of Damocles for the next election:

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) Sept. 23 confirmed the widely held view that Congress will not take up any of the stalled free trade agreements before the Nov. 4 presidential and congressional elections but said that "we'll see what happens after that."

"No action's going to happen on trade before the election. We'll see what happens after that," he said during a question-and-answer period after a speech at the Center for American Progress. Hoyer had been asked whether he saw any action on the Bush administration's stalled trade agenda in light of the financial crisis that has rocked Wall Street.

And here's a now dated interview with Austan Goolsbee, Obama economic advisor, in the Chicago Tribune.

Q: Why does Obama want to amend NAFTA?

A: NAFTA's many things. It's a thousand pages long, it's riddled with loopholes. There are parts of it that are good. So his view from the outset is not that we should abolish NAFTA but that we should put environmental and labor agreements into the core of the agreement. NAFTA is not a state-of-the-art treaty. The most vocal proponents vastly overstated what it would do … rebuild manufacturing in the U.S., reduce illegal Immigration. If you're not going to open up the dialogue to all sides and take into account the people left out, you're not going to do any favors to the cause of open markets...

Q: Why has the campaign gone quiet on trade issues?

A: The biggest issue by far is taxes, alternative energy, health care and then if there's a fourth, it's probably issues with housing, the credit crunch and how to get the economy moving again. You might be putting excess importance on just trade. It's falling into the Republican trap to say that this involves trade agreements. It is more critical for us to address our fundamentals than arguing about whether we should sign a free trade agreement with Panama. That is an issue of symbolic importance.

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Coolness to NAFTA Strong - Especially in Battleground States

The latest Democracy Corps / Greenberg Quinlan Rosner poll shows that a significantly greater percentage of likely voters (henceforth voters) are “cool” rather than “warm” to “NAFTA and international trade agreements” (henceforth NAFTA), and that the “economy and jobs” (henceforth jobs) are their top concern. In both instances, the coolness to NAFTA and concerns about jobs are significantly stronger in battleground states than in the nation as a whole. Battleground states include Colorado, Iowa, Indiana, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.

SUMMARY
•    A majority (52 percent) of battleground voters rank jobs as their top concern among 10 issues, including energy, Iraq and health care. The figure is 48 percent in the nation as a whole.
•    Twice as many battleground voters are cool as are warm to NAFTA (43-22 percent). Out of 17 issues and personalities, only four are less popular (state of the economy, gay marriage, George W. Bush, and Iraq War) than NAFTA. The battleground negatives on NAFTA are nearly twice that of the rest of the country, which are 38-26 percent cool-to-warm. NAFTA’s negatives in the rest of the country rank roughly in the middle of the 17 issues and personalities. (Congress, immigration and big corporations also have higher negatives than NAFTA in the country as a whole.)
•    While liberals and Democrats are very cool to NAFTA, independents and moderate-to-conservative Democrats and liberal-to-moderate Republicans are warier of NAFTA than their more partisan fellow voters. This is true in both battleground states and the nation as a whole.

BATTLEGROUND STATES
•    A majority of battleground voters are cool to NAFTA regardless of level of electoral participation, region, past presidential favorite, degree of loyalty to McCain or Obama, party affiliation, ideology, who they supported in the primary, what they think is the top concern facing the country, gender, age, generational cohort, race, educational level, union membership status, marital status, parental status, religion, how they feel about the direction of the country, and which party controls their congressional district.
•    In battleground states, there is little variation in the coolness to NAFTA. The following numbers refer to the percentages that are cool-warm-neutral on NAFTA.
•    The coolest attitudes to NAFTA are among Catholics (52-18-24), and irregular Catholics (59-17-24), who are seen as a key constituency in this year’s race.
•    Also very cool to NAFTA are Northeasterners (51-19-23), coast dwellers (51-19-23), white rurals (50-16-23), voters in congressional districts that are won by Democrats with a small margin (51-21-20), voters in Missouri (56-12-21), Wisconsin (50-19-23), “light blue” states (50-20-23), potential but unfirm McCain supporters (51-23-19), independents (51-21-20), Hillary supporters (51-18-24), and men without college education (52-16-25).

Continue reading "Coolness to NAFTA Strong - Especially in Battleground States" »

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Colombian Minister Booster of McCain, FTA and more $ to Death Squads

(Disclosure: Global Trade Watch has no preference among candidates)

In a recent interview published in the Huffington Post's Off the Bus, former Colombian foreign Minister Fernando Araujo hardly strayed from official campaign talking points in endorsing McCain. He expected McCain to win because "what North Americans value most is security, stability and experience".

Sadly, the experience of normal people with other policies that Araujo advocated in the interview - more NAFTAs for one - has been decidedly negative. I'm sure he didn't mean for us to consider our national experience of losing millions of good-paying jobs, the current macro-economic instability that has resulted from the FTAs and other market fundamentalist policies of the Bush years, or the insecurity that U.S. workers are feeling in a time of deep financial uncertainty, though many of you undoubtedly will.

I am even more certain that Araujo does not want you to consider a certain element in the experience of Colombian General Montoya. The WP says that Montoya has "for years been a trusted caretaker of the sizable aid package Washington provides Colombia's army" - the $641million in military aid that Araujo above argues should be expanded -  but that he now has a slight problem. The WP goes on:

[A] former paramilitary fighter has said in special judicial proceedings that Montoya, who heads Colombia's army, collaborated with death squads that took control of this city's poor neighborhoods from the guerrillas a few years ago. His testimony, along with that of at least four paramilitary commanders, is illuminating the links between Colombia's potent, U.S.-backed military and its brutal paramilitary proxies.

Essentially, our tax dollars are going into the stewardship of a man reputed to have funneled said resources to the death squads. And its no surprise to us that Araujo wants both the FTA and even more money to the paramilitaries. We've noted for some time how the elite and their paramilitary allies will emerge the winners from a more globalized and less accountable Colombia.

But this does spell big trouble for the General and his boss, President Alvaro Uribe, whose reputation has already smarted for links to right-wing death squads that terrorize union activists and other advocates for the poor. Uribe arrives this week in the US to continue a final push for approval of the US-Colombia NAFTA deal. Amid rising allegations of direct military culpability for extra judicial killings, and now further links between his government and the death squads, his bogus claims that Colombia is reformed will be met with much greater scrutiny on the Hill.

After lobbying for Congress to thwart democratic accountability to pass the FTA, and misleading Congress about the FTA's support in their country, it makes you wonder how they can continue to show their face in Washington and spew the same tired misinformation and lies.

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Biden's Son, WTO, Internet Gambling, Sleaze thread

(Disclosure: Global Trade Watch has no preference among the candidates.)

The New York Times reported over the weekend that Robert Hunter Biden, vice-presidential candidate Joe Biden's son, did some lobbying work of trade relevance:

Federal lobbying records show that Hunter Biden’s firm was hired in June by lawyers for J. Russell DeLeon and his wife, Ruth Parasol, billionaire expatriates who founded a Web site called PartyPoker. Their company, PartyGaming P.L.C., which later went public in London, stopped doing business in the United States after President Bush signed a bill into law in 2006 aimed at curbing online gambling.

Wyeth Wiedeman, a lobbyist hired by Mr. DeLeon and Ms. Parasol, said Mr. Biden helped46_large put together a lobbying campaign to persuade Congress to pass a law that would clarify the question about whether online gambling was legal prior to 2006. Mr. Wiedeman said the Justice Department has been examining the couple and others involved with the PartyPoker site.

Mr. Wiedeman said Mr. Biden visited a House member from North Carolina to discuss the issue...

Published accounts have said that Ms. Parasol, a lawyer who now lives in Gibraltar, started out as an adviser to her father’s telephone sex-chat business and then operated pornographic Web sites before turning to online gambling.

Hunter Biden could not be reached for comment. David Wade, a spokesman for the Obama campaign, said Mr. Biden’s involvement in the lobbying effort “gives much ado about nothing a whole new meaning.” He said Mr. Biden was hired by PartyGaming’s law firm, Sharp & Barnes, to provide expert advice because he specialized in electronic commerce and served on a working group on Internet gambling issues when he worked at the Commerce Department in the Clinton administration.

There is no report that any of this was connected in any way to the presidential campaigns. To see the official document detailing the $50,000 in lobbying expenditures by Biden for the gambling company investors in the gambling company, click here. (Taken from the Senate Office of Public Records.)

PartyGaming was shut out of the U.S. market when Congress passed an Internet gambling ban in 2006. Interestingly, although their lawyers PartyGaming's investors' lawyers paid Biden Biden's company thousands of bucks to lobby Congress for clarification that online gambling provision was legal prior to 2006, the company actually stated in their public offering documents that they knew it probably was illegal... and that they didn't care. As Kurt Eichenwald reported:

The Justice Department and numerous state attorneys general maintain that providing the opportunity for online gambling is against the law in the United States - and PartyGaming does it anyway. Indeed, of its $600 million in revenue and $350 million in profit in 2004, almost 90 percent came from the wallets and bank accounts of American gamblers.

To justify this, PartyGaming walks a very thin line. Providing online gambling is not illegal per se in the United States, the company argues - federal prosecutors just say it is. The company has already received an e-mail message from the Louisiana attorney general demanding that it cease providing online gambling in that state; PartyGaming simply ignored the communication and waited for additional action that never came.

The company's prospectus - a British document that is not available in the United States - at times reads something like a legal brief, citing American case law to support the company's position that no prosecution would ever take place.

Still, in its offering documents, PartyGaming makes no secret of the fact that even if the company's view of the law proves wrong, it is banking on its executives' belief that there is little that law enforcement can do - or will do - to prosecute. "In many countries, including the United States, the group's activities are considered to be illegal by the relevant authorities," PartyGaming says in its offering document. "PartyGaming and its directors rely on the apparent unwillingness or inability of regulators generally to bring actions against businesses with no physical presence in the country concerned."...

Now, as the largest company pushing into the United States market, PartyGaming is best positioned to benefit if the question of online gambling is decided in its favor. Already, the World Trade Organization and foreign governments are siding with companies like PartyGaming and against the United States.

LATE last year, for example, the W.T.O. agreed with the Caribbean island nation of Antigua that United States legislation criminalizing online betting based in other countries violated global laws. An appellate body at the trade organization upheld the principal conclusions in that ruling in April.

And it has still been upheld, as we reported on recently in our lawsuit against the Bush administration.

UPDATE: 9/17: The NYT has issued a correction, stating that:

An article on Saturday about a decision by R. Hunter Biden, a son of Senator

Joseph R. Biden Jr.

, to quit working as a

Washington

lobbyist included an incorrect identification from Senator

Barack Obama

’s campaign for the clients of a law firm, Sharp & Barnes, that had hired the senator’s son to lobby on an online-gaming issue. The firm’s clients are two investors, J. Russell DeLeon and Ruth Parasol — not the company PartyGaming P.L.C.

I corrected the info above.

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Obama Advisor on What's So Cool About Free Trade

(Disclosure: Global Trade Watch has no preference among the candidates.)

Obama campaign staffer Jason Furman has a piece out in the Harvard Law & Policy Review that touches on trade. (It came out in the summer edition, but I just saw it.) You may remember the decision to hire Furman caused a bit of a stink a few months ago. Here's what he and co-author Jason Bordoff, in a piece mostly about tax policy, have to sez:

The Growing Protectionist Backlash

The U.S. economy has become increasingly integrated with the rest of the world over the past twenty years, due to advances in technology and transportation. The result has been greater flows across borders of goods, services, capital, people, and ideas. In 2007, the sum of exports and imports amounted to 29% of GDP, up from 19% in 1979.

Concomitant with this rise in global economic integration in recent years has been a protectionist drift among Americans and their representatives. Trade deals have stalled in Congress, most notably one with South Korea, and Congress allowed the President’s trade promotion authority to expire last summer. Voters, meanwhile, are becoming more skeptical of the benefits of trade. According to a recent Pew Research Center poll, the share of Americans who believe that trade is good for their country has plunged from 78% in 2002 to 59% in 2007, the lowest proportion among the forty-seven countries included in the survey. This concern is not limited to Democrats: a Wall Street Journal poll in the fall of 2007 found that Republican voters were skeptical of free trade by an almost two-to-one margin (59% versus 32%).

Beyond free trade, protectionist sentiment is likely to be fueled further by increased foreign direct investment in the United States. Voters and policymakers alike expressed outrage when the Chinese energy firm CNOOC tried to purchase the U.S.-based Unocal, and similarly when Dubai Ports World tried to purchase operations at six U.S. ports. Such concerns are likely to be exacerbated in the coming years as the sovereign wealth funds of some foreign nations increasingly seek investment opportunities in the
United States.

The Promise of Global Economic Integration

The growing protectionist backlash against global economic integration is a serious threat to our economic well-being. Greater openness has greatly benefited the U.S. economy—even though it admittedly can precipitate concentrated harm to workers in particular industries and communities. For example, one study found that trade provided an aggregate benefit to the U.S. economy of $1 trillion per year. Free trade allows people to specialize in the goods and services they produce with the most comparative efficiency— the classic idea of “comparative advantage”—while also allowing producers and consumers to benefit from economies of scale. In doing so, free trade leads to increased productivity and GDP growth, which ultimately are necessary to raise standards of living and provide the resources needed to address costly challenges such as health care and climate change. For consumers, free trade also promotes competition, which introduces new low-priced goods and services and constrains markups on existing goods and services. For workers, free trade may be associated with competitive labor markets that can sustain lower rates of unemployment without triggering inflation.

Closely linked to greater trade are greater international capital flows, which have grown even more quickly than trade volumes in recent decades. American firms are leaders in financial services, and financial openness allows U.S. investors to find new and more productive investment opportunities abroad and permits foreigners to invest in the United States. America’s large budget deficit and low private savings would have had much more serious consequences were it not for America’s open capital account, which allows substantial foreign investment to help maintain America’s production. Moreover, open trade has been beneficial for the United States recently because, as the economy has slowed and the dollar has weakened, a rising share of economic growth has come from exports.

Finally, globalization is a benefit not only to the United States, but also to the rest of the world—particularly the developing world. Trade is driving economic growth throughout the world, lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, and has proven far more effective at doing so than has traditional development aid. Openness to trade and investment can facilitate growth, and growth and poverty reduction go hand in hand. Even for those countries trapped in a cycle of poverty, one leading scholar argues that what is needed more than increased foreign aid is increased market access for the “bottom billion” to the economies of the rest of the world.

Here's what Senator Obama had to say about the Korea trade deal that the Jasons reference:

Obama, who has made criticism of free-trade pacts a staple of his campaign, called the accord between the two nations ``badly flawed.''

``In the interests of cultivating bipartisan cooperation on trade policy, I urge you not to send this agreement forward to the Congress,'' Obama wrote in a letter to Bush released today. Instead of pushing the agreement, the U.S. trade office should use existing laws to challenge ``barriers to U.S. exports,'' Obama said.

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Obama Advisor: We Want to Make Colombia FTA Possible

(Disclosure: Global Trade Watch has no preference among the candidates.)

481700415_698bf66104_2 Several presidential campaign advisors and otherwise big wigs spoke at the 12th annual Corporación Andina De Fomento (CAF) conference on trade and investment in the Americas. Dan Restrepo is Obama's Latin America dude, and a Center for American Progress staffer who hosted Colombian President Alvaro Uribe a while back. (Here are the pics in case you forgot.) Here is what Rossella Brevetti of BNA reported:

Regarding the Colombia FTA, Restrepo noted that Obama has expressed concern on a number of occasions over the continuing level of violence against trade unionists in Colombia. Colombia can consolidate its past security gains by bringing an end to the impunity that surrounds the violence, Restrepo said. "Unfortunately there has not been as much progress as one would like to see with regard to impunity," he remarked. "It's important to continue down that path," he said.

"We understand the importance of the FTA to the Colombian government ... We want to work to make it possible," Restrepo said. He indicated that Obama needs greater confidence that the Colombian government can hold people accountable for past abuses.

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FactCheck.Org Checks McCain

FackCheck.org focuses its fact-checking might on John McCain's radio ad in Florida promoting the Colombia FTA. What they find?

McCain's new radio ad, in Spanish, aims to show Florida would benefit from the Colombia Free Trade Agreement, which he supports. But every number in the ad is wrong, except one, a prediction of job gains taken from a group favoring the trade deal. And even that number is rounded upward so generously as to flunk third-grade arithmetic.

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How will the election affect fair trade?

Bob Davis and Greg Hitt at the WSJ make some informed guesses:

Some McCain priorities are likely to go nowhere in a Democratic Congress, especially free-trade pacts. Democrats have already blocked approval of pacts with Colombia, Panama and South Korea, and have tied President Bush's hands in negotiating new deals. A McCain victory might stiffen Democratic opposition, because Sen. McCain is probably a more committed free trader than President Bush, and the number of anti-free-trade Democrats running for office is increasing.

(Disclosure: Global Trade Watch has no preference among the candidates.)

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Return of the Bitter

(Disclosure: Global Trade Watch has no preference among the candidates.)

We reported back in April about Obama's "bitter" comment. To refresh your memory,

At the fund-raiser in San Francisco last Sunday, Mr. Obama outlined challenges facing his presidential candidacy in the coming primaries in Pennsylvania and Indiana, particularly persuading white working-class voters who, he said, fell through the cracks during the Bush and Clinton administrations.

“So it’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations,” Mr. Obama said, 

Many liberal commentators jumped to Obama's defense, saying they knew people down on their luck who were bitter. Obama himself, perhaps sensitive to the charges of an elitist tone, tried to disown the comment.

But the "bitter comment" won't die. Republican Vice-Presidential nominee Sarah Palin, in her convention speech last night, brought up the bitter comment again, while also trying to steal some thunder from Obama-Biden by mentioning her labor connections, and making some jabs at community organizing:

You know, from the inside, no family ever seems typical, and that's how it is with us... Todd is a story all by himself. He's a lifelong commercial fisherman and a production operator in the oil fields of Alaska's North Slope, and a proud member of the Untied Steelworkers Union. (Cheers, applause.) And Todd is a world champion snow machine racer. (Cheers, applause.) Throw in his Yupik Eskimo ancestry, and it all makes for quite a package. And we met in high school, and two decades and five children later, he's still my guy. (Cheers, applause.)

Before I became governor of the great state of Alaska -- (cheers, applause) -- I was mayor of my hometown. And since our opponents in this presidential election seem to look down on that experience, let me explain to them what the job involves. (Cheers, applause.) I guess -- (interrupted by chants of "Sarah! Sarah!") -- I guess a small-town mayor if sort of like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities. (Cheers, applause.)

I might add -- I might add that in small towns, we don't quite know what to make of a candidate who lavishes praise on working people when they're listening, and then talks about how bitterly they cling to their religion and guns when those people aren't listening. (Cheers, applause.) No, we tend to prefer candidates who don't talk about us one way in Scranton and another way in San Francisco. (Cheers, applause.)...

My fellow citizens, the American presidency is not supposed to be a journey of personal discovery. (Laughter, cheers, applause.) This world of threats and dangers, it's not just a community and it doesn't just need an organizer. (Laughter.)

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GOP Release Trade Platform

(Disclosure: Global Trade Watch has no preference among the candidates.)

The Republican Party has released its platform, and there's a trade section. From the looks of it, the Buchananite base got Palin, and that's all they're getting:

Free and Fair Trade

Greater international trade, aggressively advanced on a truly level playing field, will mean
more American jobs, higher wages, and a better standard of living. It is also a matter of national security and an instrument to promote democracy and civil society in developing nations.

With 95 percent of the world’s customers outside our borders, we need to be at the table when trade rules are written to make sure that free trade is indeed a two-way street. We encourage multilateral, regional, and bilateral agreements to reduce trade barriers that limit market access for U.S. products, commodities and services. To achieve that goal, Congress should reinstate the trade promotion authority every president should have in dealing with foreign governments. Trade agreements that have already been signed and are pending before Congress should be debated and voted on immediately.

An aggressive trade strategy is especially important with regard to agriculture. Our farm economy produces for the world; its prosperity depends, more than ever before, on open markets. U.S. agricultural exports will top $100 billion this year. We will contest any restrictions upon our farm products within the World Trade Organization and will work to make the WTO’s decision-making process more receptive to the arguments of American producers.

We pledge stronger action to protect intellectual property rights against pirating and will aggressively oppose the direct and indirect subsidies by which some governments tilt the world playing field against American producers. To protect American consumers, we call for greater vigilance and more resources to guard against the importation of tainted food, poisonous products, and dangerous toys. Additionally, we recognize the need to support our growth in trade through appropriate development and support of our ports in order to ensure safe, efficient and timely handling of all goods.

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Making a story where there isn't one

(Disclosure: Global Trade Watch has no preference among the candidates.)

Philip Elliott of the AP writes an unusual story the headline of which is "NAFTA Bashing off the Democrats' Agenda" and the lede of which is: "The once-decried free trade deals of the primaries have been all but abandoned as political boogeymen."

Yet the story goes on to say that both Obama and Clinton campaigned and won primaries based on their NAFTA criticism, and all of the people cited argue that trade is and was a potent political issue.

So what's the evidence for the proposition in the lede and headline?

During the Democrats' nominating convention here this week, nary a mention arose about the North American Free Trade Agreement or its peers... Part of the reason Obama has gone silent on NAFTA is because it riles up some unions and staunch Democrats, but not independent and swing voters. NAFTA is an easy target because some voters blame such trade deals for lost jobs, but its details don't work well in 30-second soundbites.

This last sentence might have been the lede: I think I would advise anyone running for office not to talk about investor-state mechanisms in their nomination speech too, much as I am fascinated by the topic.

The para is also off on its politics: independents and swing voters are MORE trade-skeptical than Democrats, as this Pew poll from May shows:

In general, Republicans express more positive views than do Democrats about the impact of free trade agreements on the United States. Still, as many Republicans see free trade agreements as a bad thing as a good thing (43% vs. 42%). Democrats, by 50% to 34%, say free trade agreements are bad for the United States. A narrow majority of independents (52%) views free trade agreements as bad for the country.

Solid majorities of Democrats (64%), independents (64%) and Republicans (55%) say that free trade agreements lead to job losses - rather than create jobs - in the United States. There also is fairly broad agreement that free trade agreements lower, rather than raise the wages of American workers. Democrats, by nearly four-to-one (57% to 15%) say that free trade agreements slow the economy down rather than make it grow; this also is the prevailing view among independents (50% vs. 18%).

Continue reading "Making a story where there isn't one" »

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Palin: An Unknown on Trade

(Disclosure: Global Trade Watch has no preference among the candidates.)

News reports are indicating that John McCain is tapping Gov. Sarah Palin (R-Alaska) for his running mate. As we reported back in 2006, Palin has not articulated views on trade issues, although Tony Knowles, her Democratic opponent in the 2006 gubernatorial race, had campaigned on a fair trade platform.

Elsewhere in Alaska land, Anchorage mayor Mark Begich is challening incumbent Sen. Ted Stevens. Begich has been critical of all of the trade deals negotiated by the Bush administration, while Stevens - with the notable exceptions of  opposing NAFTA, the WTO and the Chile FTA - has voted against fair trade 80% of the time (16/20 votes) since 1974.

Update at 5 pm: While Chris Hayes reports that Palin might have had a Buchanan-ite past, there seems to be little evidence that she is a trade skeptic. In fact, a U.S. Chamber of Commerce piece has her saying,

Alaskans have been first-rate at international trade for decades. I applaud the hard-working Alaskans who help our economy at home, and other economies around the world, through trade.

Not that I would hazard a guess as to what this general statement means, but still...

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Biden on Trade

(Disclosure: Global Trade Watch has no preference among the candidates.)

Toronto's Globe and Mail highlights the trade positions of Barack Obama’s new running mate, Sen. Joe Biden:

Brace yourself for a barrage of tough rhetoric on trade from Joe Biden, Democrat Senator Barack Obama's vice-presidential pick.

The U.S. senator from Delaware has vowed to overhaul the North American free-trade agreement and take Prime Minister Stephen Harper "to the mat."

A self-described "fair trader," Mr. Biden voted against recent trade pacts between the U.S. and other countries. He's also pushed for strict enforcement of U.S. and international trade laws.

And like most Democrats, he wants new and explicit protections for workers and the environment built into all future trade deals.

While running for President, Sen. Biden recognized the strong public opposition to our current NAFTA/WTO trade model. Biden announced his opposition to the Peru Free Trade Agreement last fall.

Biden also echoed Sen. Obama's comments on the need for a strong response to the importation of unsafe toys in an October 30, 2007 Democratic debate at Drexel University: "If I were president, I'd shut down any imports from China, period, in terms of their toys -- flat shut it down. Imagine if this was Morocco selling us these toys, we would have shut it down a year ago."

More statements from Sen. Biden on trade and globalization are available here.

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Trade battles on the big screen at national conventions

If the presumptive presidential contenders and their advisors have still not figured out - ahem - the political costs of surrendering to so-called "free trade" policies of the NAFTA/WTO variety against the interest of, well, almost everybody, they might be surprised to find some people getting a little riled up about the issue at convention time: delegates to both the Democratic National Convention (August 25-28 in Denver) and the Republican National Convention (September 1-4 in St Paul) will be treated to a "sneak peak" viewing of the latest Hollywood indie extravaganza...

Stuart Townsend's Battle in Seattle won't open for another month for the rest of us (September 19th and 26th in select cities across the country), but thanks to the folks behind the Impact Film Festival, convention delegates will get an inspiring (and timely) look-in on a rocking film set in Seattle during the WTO protests.

With a star-studded cast (Charlize Theron, Woody Harrelson, Andre-3000, Ray Liotta, Michelle Rodriguez and more), everyone will want to see the story of the 5-day uprising that forced the collapse of the WTO's 1999 Seattle ministerial. The film is sort of like Crash, following the lives of twelve characters during those historic days. Woody plays a cop – no kidding. So does Tatum Channing. Andre Henderson and Michelle Rodriquez are protestors. One of the most powerful "people's" moments in recent U.S. history never looked so beautiful.

Maybe a trip down that particular 'memory lane', to the days when more than 50,000 union members (voters!), environmentalists (also voters!), students (read: youth voters!) and more converged in Seattle to speak truth to power in the face of the world's biggest corporations - and their Washington DC pundits - will keep the politicians just a little more honest when they talk about the looming trade issues of our time?

For the rest of us, now is the time to start booking those advance tickets for the Battle in Seattle showings closer to home. The film will be opening:

  • September 19:   New York, San Francisco and Seattle (of course!)
  • September 26:   Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Sacramento and Washington, DC.                        

Groups of 25 or more receive discount tickets. To find a theater near you call 866-758-1258 or visit www.battleinseattlemovie.com/labor

To organize an event around the film's release, contact Michael Crawford at 202-546-4996 or mcrawford@citizen.org

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Morales rising: Evo win margin jumps 15% on record of stopping NAFTA-WTO expansion; reasserting control over natural resources

Bolivia’s President Evo Morales was returned to office last week following a controversial ‘recall referendum’ pushed by rightwing political opponents with a landslide victory of 68%.  Morales, the first indigenous president of Bolivia, won by 53% when initially elected in late 2005. The recall vote increased the majority of Morales and his Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) party by nearly 15%.

Morales’ landslide victory exposed the marginality of a vocal bloc of right-wing separatists in the country’s gas and oil-rich regions. Their goal – to get things back to pre-Morales days when a small elite controlled the revenues from the country’s massive energy resources and farm land. And they are desperate to derail Morales' planned constitutional and social reforms, including regaining control of the country’s oil and gas resources and land redistribution for one of the world’s erstwhile poorest nations.

The right wing had two related strategies: breaking the oil-producing lowland regions away from the rest of the country and taking the national oil revenues with and um...throwing Morales out of office. The first avenue is unconstitutional (although that has not stopped them from repeatedly trying) but now they’ve just gotten whomped on Plan B to un-elect Morales.

Media reports of the past week have largely focused on predictions that the defeated right wing would continue to attack Morales despite the massive vote of public confidence, since four key separatist opponents of Morales were also, as expected (and detailed in a report by WOLA here), returned to their regional posts. The significance of Morales’ rising support levels have largely been swept under the carpet: When Morales was elected in late 2005, his 53 victory was by far the largest in the country’s history, making him the first Bolivian leader able to claim an absolute majority. Two years later, his support has grown by a further 15%.

Such numbers suggest widespread support among Bolivia’s indigenous majority and beyond for the approach Morales has adopted to redistribute wealth and resources (as detailed in a recent report by CEPR)

Morales’ campaign for social and economic justice extends beyond Bolivia when the country participates in international negotiations. For instance, when the WTO recently held an invitation-only mini-ministerial for a select 30 countries, Morales’ issued a powerful statement. He said what many excluded developing country leaders were thinking about the attempt to steamroller through a Doha Round WTO expansion most poor countries oppose:

“The WTO negotiations have turned into a fight by developed countries to open markets in developing countries to favor their big companies…The poorest countries will be the main losers. The economic projections of a potential WTO agreement, carried out even by the World Bank, indicate that the cumulative costs of the loss in employment, the restrictions to national policymaking and the loss in tariff revenues will be greater than the “gains” from the “Development Round”.

After seven years, the WTO round is anchored in the past and out of date with the most important phenomena we are currently living: the food crisis, the energy crisis, climate change and the elimination of cultural diversity. The world is being led to believe that an agreement is needed to resolve the global agenda and this agreement does not correspond to that reality. Its bases are not appropriate to resist this new global agenda,” Morales said in a statement

ahead of the talks.

It is just this sort of clarity and principled defense of the interests of his country’s majority poor population that makes the right wing in Bolivia – and in the United States – obsessed with attacking Morales. With Morales and his social change projects facing continued challenges from corporate interests - both domestic and foreign - as well-argued in this CounterPunch essay, the struggle is far from over.

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The Punditocracy: Speaking for the Wretched of the Earth

For those of us who get dizzy listening to the circular logic of the paragons of Punditocracy (especially of the capital P variety), Roger Bybee's (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) excellent historical round-up of Fareed Zakaria's noxious views on trade and globalization issues offers a welcome breath of cold, clean facts  after some pretty serious doses of post-Doha death vertigo from the 'powers that be'...

Fareed Zakaria, now the highly influential editor of Newsweek International, author of The Post-American World, and host of Fareed Zakaria GPS, constructed a landmark of unintended irony when he regally pronounced that “the downtrodden beg to differ” with protesters of corporate globalization (Foreign Affairs, 12/13/99).

Those who demonstrated against the World Trade Organization at the famous “battle of Seattle” in 1999, he asserted, were displaying the hubris of the “rich and privileged,” who were delivering “a familiar plea for the downtrodden of the world” by challenging the WTO’s promotion of sweatshops and environmental degradation in the impoverished Third World.

In other words, Zakaria denounced the arrogance of those who presume to advocate for the world’s poor—while appointing himself, the son of a prominent Indian attorney and politician, as the poor’s spokesperson. “There’s just one problem: The downtrodden beg to differ,” Zakaria declared.

In his eyes, the Third World’s poor eagerly welcome Western investment on any terms as a vast improvement over their current misery. Microscopic wages, long hours and heartless management in sweatshops, along with befouled air and water, might seem horrific to wealthy Westerners, but are gratefully welcomed by the desperate people of nations like Mexico, China and India. “In fact, if the demonstrators’ demands were met, the effect would be to crush the hopes of much poorer Third World workers,” he declared (12/13/99)...

On globalization, Zakaria zealously denounces opponents of corporate-determined trade agreements as seeking to impose utopian rules for the global economy that are widely rejected, especially by the most wretched of the earth....

Zakaria’s “anti-democratic” and “minority” accusations invert reality in...critical ways....

A recent multinational Chicago Council/ WorldPublicOpinion.org poll (released 4/25/07) found majorities in most poor nations insisting that globalization be accompanied by global standards to prevent a “race to the bottom.”

“Strong majorities in developing nations around the world support requiring signatories of trade agreements to meet minimum labor and environmental standards,” the survey concluded, citing data from China, India, Thailand, the Philippines, Argentina and Mexico. “Nine in 10 Americans also support such protections for workers and the environment.”

Elites in Third World nations, in contrast, staunchly opposed such standards, the study noted:

The leaders of less developed nations have generally opposed including language mandating minimum standards for working conditions and environmental protections in trade deals, arguing that such rules are protectionist and would undermine their ability to compete in major markets such as Europe and the United States.

“It has often been assumed that when leaders of developing countries argue against including labor or environmental standards in trade agreements, they represent the wishes of their people,” added Steven Kull, director of WorldPublic Opinion.org. “However, it appears that these publics would like to see the international community put pressure on their governments to raise their standards.”

These findings directly contradict Zakaria’s simplistic worldview that the free-trade agenda of America’s political and business elite reflects overwhelming public sentiment in both poorer nations and the U.S.

And, closer to home (and to the other salient topic of the day - the upcoming November polls - about which Zakaria is busy confusing the American electorate daily), Bybee reminds us of the ultimate price yet to be paid by those candidates who forget that the people actually know what's going on...

While elites across the globe support unregulated globalization, majorities in both the U.S. and poorer nations essentially seek to restructure globalization so that it benefits everyone—as signified by the flipping of 37 congressional seats in the 2006 mid-term elections from “free trade” advocates to supporters of “fair trade” (Global Trade Watch, 12/13/06)."

Gotta love it when the real elites try to carve their niches by claiming to speak for the poorest of the poor. Frantz Fanon must be spinning in his grave!

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Obama Channels Sting: I'll Be Watching You

(Disclosure: Global Trade Watch has no preference among the candidates.)

According to Doug Palmer from Reuters...

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama wants a successful end to long-running world trade talks, but will closely review any deal reached by the Bush administration, an Obama adviser said on Wednesday.

"Sen. Obama believes we need to change our trade focus from the Bush years so there is a true focus on workers, jobs, farmers and on ensuring that we are lifting standards of living overseas," Jason Furman, Obama economic adviser said in a statement in response to request by Reuters.

"That is the focus that as president he would bring to  seeking completion of a successful Doha round," Furman said.

Furman issued the remarks before a meeting later this month in Geneva that World Trade Organization Director General Pascal Lamy has described as the "moment of truth" for the Doha round, which was launched nearly seven years ago.

"While (Obama) would be skeptical of any agreement done by the Bush administration -- especially in the last few months -- it would be premature to comment until there was an agreement and details to review," Furman said...

Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, said she doubted this month's meeting would produce a major breakthrough because trading partners know it will be up to the next president to get any agreement through Congress.

"Most countries seem aware of the perils involved in making any deal with a president who has no authority to bind the U.S. legally and is desperate to get any foreign policy win like announcing a WTO breakthrough," Wallach said.

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Nice, clean, pure and simple wedge issue

(Disclosure: Global Trade Watch has no preference among the candidates.)

The Dayton Daily News had a piece that looked at the role of trade in the elections that cited our 2006 analysis:

Lori Wallach of Global Trade Watch said in 2004 and 2000, voters saw little difference between Democrats John Kerry and Al Gore and Republican George W. Bush on the trade issue. So those voters — often white and working-class — voted based on what she calls "secondary" social issues.

This year, she predicts, the vast differences between Barack Obama and John McCain on the issue — McCain defends NAFTA and U.S. trade policy; Obama is critical — will mean voters will consider trade when they cast their ballots.

"It's really a clean, wedge issue," she said.

Brown said the 2006 election is part of the reason candidates now are paying so much attention to the issue. "I think Barack wins the state in part because of trade, pure and simple," he said.

Sen. Brown also had a letter to the NYT Mag about the awful Roger Lowenstein piece from a few weeks ago:

Lowenstein knows that trade deals are not just about tariffs; they are about intellectual property protections and investor protections and labor protections and environmental protections. They can be written to benefit most people or some people. They can be written to give some companies a windfall or most companies a fair shake. They can be written with the best interests of workers and investors in mind, or to favor one over the other. Trade policy is a series of decisions; it’s not black or white.

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More fruit from the poll tree

It doesn't get a whole lot more self-explanatory than CNN's headline, Poll: Majority against free trade.

According to the CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, 51 percent of Americans view foreign trade as a threat to the economy -- the first time in a CNN poll that a majority of Americans report holding negative views on free trade.

That compares with only 35 percent of Americans who felt free trade posed a threat to the economy in 2000, and 48 percent who felt it was a threat in 2006.

...Nearly six in 10 voters say the country's poor economic conditions will be extremely important -- ranking the economy as the No. 1 issue in this campaign out of 15 issues tested in the poll... That finding represents a clear change from the beginning of this year, when the war in Iraq and the economy were tied as the top campaign issues.

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McCain in Mordor

(Disclosure: Global Trade Watch has no preference among the candidates.)

McCain is a life-long supporter of NAFTA-style trade deals, while Obama has a better but less consistent record on the fair trade side. Is McCain trying to force Obama into a corner? That's the only explanation of why McCain would fly to the union murder capital of the world (Colombia) to promote a trade deal that Americans hate. Here are some reactions from Bloomberg reporting (guess which one is at a Democratic-backed group):

Mordor_2

"McCain does have the opportunity to take the optimistic, pro-trade mantra,'' said Ed Gresser, a trade official in the Clinton administration and now an analyst at the Progressive Policy Institute, a research group in Washington affiliated with the Democratic Leadership Council that supports trade...

McCain's support of trade will help Obama, said Lori Wallach, president of Global Trade Watch, a group which opposes free-trade agreements.

"It's one thing to have that view, it's another thing to wave it around like a pair of red underwear,'' Wallach said, calling trade a "wedge issue'' that may push factory workers toward Obama.

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Baucus chief of staff joins Obama team (slightly old news)

It's old news, but seems to have flown under the radar a bit. Courtesy of WaPo's The Fix: "Jim Messina, who is currently serving as chief of staff to Montana Sen. Max Baucus, will join the presidential operation of Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) in a senior advisory role -- the latest addition of a longtime party operative to the Illinois Senator's political inner circle."

What to make of this? Baucus, of course, is the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. In the Senate, Finance has jurisdiction over trade. This is, shall we say, inconvenient for fair trade activists since Baucus deep down (and not so deep down) thinks the NAFTA-WTO model is just fabulous (with a few labor and environmental carrots thrown in). For instance, at a speech he gave to the centrist New Democrats last year, he said:

I have long called for negotiations with commercially significant economies.  The Korean Free Trade Agreement is a good start.  But we should not be afraid to think bigger.  We should continue to pursue negotiations with Malaysia, Taiwan, Indonesia, India, and Japan.  We should not shy away from more daunting measures like regional agreements with ASEAN or APEC.

...Behind every American strength and success are American ideas.  We should take ambitious measures to enhance their protection and enforcement domestically and globally.  We should begin to negotiate a plurilateral intellectual property agreement in the World Trade Organization that goes beyond our existing TRIPS obligations.

More NAFTA expansion! More protectionism for pharmaceutical companies! Hooray!

So, the appointment of Baucus' chief of staff to a high-level position within the Obama campaign should rightfully put fair traders on their toes just a little more.

Disclosure: Global Trade Watch has no preference among the candidates.

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McCain's Brain

(Disclosure: Global Trade Watch has no preference among the candidates.)

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is on his way to Bogota to push Bush's NAFTA expansion to Colombia. And it appears like, much like Clinton with her Mark Penn snafu earlier, McCain has a ton of advisors with links to the murderous regime there. According to Sam Stein at Huffington Post:

McCain's chief political adviser, Charlie Black, represented the oil-giant Occidental Petroleum from 2001 through 2007, in the process earning $1.6 million in fees for his firm, according to lobbying records. Among the issues on which he lobbied included the Colombia Free Trade Agreement (though also general energy topics concerning Middle East countries). Occidental gained a certain amount of political infamy when its security company was accused of bombing a Colombian village and killing 17 civilians in 1998. The company, which works with the country's military forces to protect an oil pipeline, denied involvement in the attack. But in 2007, Occidental again found itself in the midst of a human-rights mess, this time accused in congressional testimony of being "complicit" - with several other major corporations - in the murder of three labor leaders.

Black isn't the only McCain confidante with connections to companies pushing for free trade with Colombia. Kirk Blalock, a bundler who has raised at least $250,000 for the Senator, lobbied on behalf of American Forest & Paper Association, Ford Motor company, General Pharmaceutical Association, and Miller Brewing, all of which have championed the Colombia Free Trade Agreement.

Peter Madigan, another top fundraiser for the presumptive GOP nominee, was described as a lobbyist who "works for the government of Colombia" to "promote a U.S.-Colombia free-trade agreement" by ABC News. A lobbyist at Johnson, Madigan, Peck, Boland & Stewart, Madigan's clients include Philip Morris, Arthur Andersen, Charles Schwab, Goldman Sachs, Shell Oil and Verizon. His firm, ABC wrote, has "distributed papers defending Colombian President Alvaro Uribe against allegations of ties to paramilitary groups, and promoting the controversial anti-drug program 'Plan Colombia' as achieving 'strengthening human rights.'"

Meanwhile, Susan Nelson, McCain's finance director, and Tom Loeffler, the recently resigned national finance chairman, both lobbied in the past for the Colombia FTA on behalf of Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America. In the process they earned tens of thousands of dollars for their firm, The Loeffler Group.

"It seems that McCain's entire brain trust is pushing for these trade deals," said Bill Holland, deputy director of Global Trade Watch. "And after the primaries, when we have seen that Americans are overwhelming rejecting the current model, to have all these advisers pushing it is a bad sign."

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Real World of Fair Trade

(Disclosure: Global Trade Watch has no preference among congressional candidates.)

Some of you may recall that Rep. Ed Towns (D-N.Y.) was one of the CAFTA 15, in reference to the 15 Dems who betrayed their party's base and supported the NAFTA expansion to Central America back in 2005. 71m4jxmyhdl_sl500_aa280_gif Towns attracted several progressive challengers in the 2006 elections, and skated by with under 50% of the vote in a three-way primary that included Charles Barron and Kevin Powell from MTV's Real World's first season.

Well, Powell is back, and going after Towns again. And apparently, he has the support of Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, and a bunch of other incredible Brooklyn residents. We'll stay tuned to see what happens.

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Obama's folks talking to fair traders

(Disclosure: Global Trade Watch has no preference among the candidates.)

According to today's Inside U.S. Trade,

Members of the House Trade Working Group, which opposes the U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement and other trade deals negotiated by the Bush administration, late last week told a representative of the Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) that his campaign would gain political support if it endorsed a new trade policy...

Members argued in a June 19 meeting with Obama campaign adviser Jason Furman that a more forceful rejection of Bush administration trade deals would help to connect with working class voters in crucial swing states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan...

The members in the meeting also talked with Furman about the TRADE Act [...] Furman said the campaign is still reviewing the legislation...

In other news, some of you may remember when Obama went all Bill Cosby on poor black parents last week. But Obama seems to be embracing a bit more structural critique, joining Sens. Jim Webb (D-Va.), Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in co-sponsoring a bill on paid parental leave for federal workers. The bill, which passed the House last week, is a real victory for economic justice. Go Congress!

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Poll roundup: Americans want to renegotiate NAFTA

A new Rasmussen Reports telephone poll indicates that over half - 56 percent - of Americans think NAFTA should be renegotiated. The juicy bits include:

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey taken Monday night finds that 56% of voters support renegotiation while 39% say U.S. free trade agreements in general have directly impacted their families. Of that latter group, 73% say the impact has been a bad one, as opposed to 14% who say it was beneficial.

Only 16% of respondents favor NAFTA - a pact which came into being in 1994 and lowers nearly all trade barriers between the U.S., Canada and Mexico -- as is, with 28% undecided... Perhaps most importantly, 71% say negotiation of trade agreements is important to them in terms of how they will vote. Only 20% say it is not important.

(We've been talking about that last point for a while now...)

This comes a few weeks after a Pew Research Center poll showing that 48 percent of Americans, including 42 percent of Republicans and 52 percent of Independents, believe "free trade agreements—like NAFTA, and the policies of the World Trade Organization" have been "a bad thing" for the United States, while only 35 percent said they have been a good thing. This is a dramatic reversal from a 2004 poll in which Americans believed that these trade agreements have been a good thing, by a 47-34 margin.

The same Pew poll also shows that 61 percent of Americans believe free trade costs U.S. jobs, and 56 percent believe it lowers wages. Only 9 percent believe free trade creates U.S. jobs, and only 8 percent believe it raises wages – results which are consistent across party affiliation lines.

And, just for fun, if you care to take at face value the ABC News/Facebook poll (to be clear... I wouldn't), 79 percent of Americans think the U.S. should renegotiate NAFTA or withdraw from it entirely.

A few more polling tidbits after the jump...

Continue reading "Poll roundup: Americans want to renegotiate NAFTA" »

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Will the real Bill Richardson please stand up?

Gov. Bill Richardson (D-N.M.) was the Democratic Whip on NAFTA, then he ran for president and opposed the Peru FTA (and feigned surprise at the existence of the NAFTA investor-state mechanism), and now he says this, according to the NY Observer:

Bill Richardson thinks that when it comes to Barack Obama's position on Nafta, an agreement which he calls "a plus, a slight plus, at least for my state," voters should look at Illinois Senator's record.

"He voted for the Peru Free Trade Agreement," said Richardson, who immediately proceeded to make it clear that he was in no way speaking for Obama or his campaign. "You've got to be realistic," he said, and "you've got to deal with globalization."

Richardson said that during his ill-fated candidacy, he became more aware of the antagonism to Nafta in the Midwest, and the anxiety about free trade among the middle class around the country.

"I'm a free-trade Democrat. I'm also an endangered species in the Democratic Party," said Richardson.

We reported last year on Richardson's 10% fair trade voting record while in Congress, where he only voted right on one out of 10 major trade votes. He voted right on the Canada FTA, but wrong on Fast Track a whopping 5 times (1983, 1984, 1988, 1993, and 1998), and on Israel FTA, 1991 Fast Track disapproval, NAFTA and the WTO. And here's what he told a N.H. audience when campaigning in that state last year, where he called the investor-state mechanism not terribly progressive.

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Obama campaign fights back on Fortune interview

(Disclosure: Global Trade Watch has no preference among the candidates.)

Say what you will about Obama's trade positions, but you can't deny that they learned the lesson of Al Gore and John Kerry that you must fight back when attacked or misquoted. The Obama campaign has established a Fact Check operation to respond to absolutely everything, including what they claim is a  misrepresentation of Obama's trade views in a Fortune Magazine interview. Particularly interesting was his statement to Nina Easton on NAFTA and immigration, which I don't think has ever been said by a major party candidate:

And by the way, just going back to NAFTA for a second, I don't dispute that there may have been some modest aggregate benefit in terms of lowering prices on consumer goods for example. But I would also argue that not only did it have an adverse affect on certain communities that saw jobs move down to Mexico but for example our agricultural section pretty much devastated a much less efficient Mexican farming system. But from a pure economic, you know if you're just an economist looking at this in an abstract way you would say well a more efficient producer displaced a less efficient producer in Mexico, there's nothing wrong with that. As a practical matter those are millions of people in Mexico who are displaced. Many of whom now are moving up to the United States, contributing to the immigration concerns that people are feeling. And so, those human factors should be taken into account. They may not override or every single decision that we make in respect to trade, but to pretend those costs aren't there, that those costs aren't real, and my job as president to take those into account, I think, does no service to free trade. And its part of what has fed the protection incentive and the anti-immigration incentive that is out there in both parts and you know I think that if we manage trade more effectively, if we're better partners, if we are thinking about the dislocations that occurs as a consequence of it, if were true to our belief that labor and environmental standards should be a part of raising living standards around the world instead of a race to the bottom, then we can have free trade and it will be sustainable and we will have political support over the long run.

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Trade on the Trail: Into the General

(Disclosure: Global Trade Watch has no preference among the candidates.)

There's a lotta news on trade in the trail, so let's just get into it. Just as DLC leader Al From bemoans the lack of "free trade" Democrats, Fortune Magazine's Nina Easton reports:

The general campaign is on, independent voters up for grabs, and Barack Obama is toning down his populist rhetoric - at least when it comes to free trade.

In an interview with Fortune to be featured in the magazine's upcoming issue, the presumptive Democratic nominee suggests he doesn't want to unilaterally blow up NAFTA after all.

"Sometimes during campaigns the rhetoric gets overheated and amplified," he conceded, after I reminded him that he had called NAFTA "devastating" and "a big mistake," despite nonpartisan studies concluding that the trade zone has had a mild, positive effect on the U.S. economy.

Does that mean his rhetoric was overheated and amplified? "Politicians are always guilty of that, and I don't exempt myself," he answered.

Obama is also courting labor backing today:

Obama still needs to make amends with many in the labor movement; at least a dozen AFL-CIO unions, including the powerful American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, backed his Democratic rival, Hillary Rodham Clinton. The AFL-CIO allowed its unions to make their own endorsements during the primaries.

The labor federation has been critical of Obama's decision to hire economist Jason Furman as economic policy director because of his ties to corporate America and support of free trade. Obama said he would tell them Furman is experienced in presidential campaigns and adds to a wide range of economic views on his campaign.

"He's not whispering in my ear and he's not shaping my core beliefs about what is needed in the American economy," Obama told reporters Tuesday on his campaign plane. "He's one of my economists. And so I will suggest to them that looking at one staff person and getting nervous about it probably doesn't make sense."

Naomi Klein writes:

Barack Obama waited just three days after Hillary Clinton pulled out of the race to declare, on CNBC: "Look. I am a pro-growth, free-market guy. I love the market." Demonstrating that this is no mere spring fling, he has appointed the 37-year-old Jason Furman, one of Wal-Mart's most prominent defenders, to head his economic team. On the campaign trail, Obama blasted Clinton for sitting on the Wal-Mart board and pledged: "I won't shop there." For Furman, however, Wal-Mart's critics are the real threat: the "efforts to get Wal-Mart to raise its wages and benefits" are creating "collateral damage" that is "way too enormous and damaging to working people and the economy ... for me to sit by idly and sing Kum Ba Ya in the interests of progressive harmony".

Obama's love of markets and his desire for "change" are not inherently incompatible. "The market has gotten out of balance," he says, and it most certainly has. Many trace this profound imbalance to the ideas of Milton Friedman, who launched a counter-revolution against the New Deal from his perch at the University of Chicago. And here there are more problems, because Obama - who taught law at Chicago for a decade - is embedded in the mindset known as the Chicago School.

On the GOP side, McCain is planning tours of Canada and Colombia to vocally support trade pacts with those countries:

Canadian officials are watching the election attentively, too. Obama, who four years ago declared NAFTA had been beneficial, recently talked about reopening NAFTA to strengthen enforcement of labor and environmental standards. McCain has been thumping Obama on that, arguing that such a step not only would hurt trade, but undermine the credibility of the United States abroad.

"You know what message that sends? That no agreement is sacred to him," McCain told reporters Thursday in Boston.

And Dick Cheney weighs in:

"Some politicians seem determined to unravel the bipartisan consensus on free trade -- a consensus epitomized by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)," said Cheney in direct reference to Obama's stated intention of renegotiating the 1994 pact between United States, Canada and Mexico if he is elected to the White House.

"In a time when even NAFTA is being called into doubt -- when candidates can draw cheers by denouncing trade deals with our next-door neighbors -- then we're at risk of going down a very destructive path," Cheney added.

In what appeared to be an underpinning of Republican Senator John McCain's pro-free trade stance in his election campaign, the vice president warned that protectionism "is the refuge of a tired, fearful nation -- and that is not the United States."

And that wily Peter Mandelson can't keep his mouth shut either:

"Who would have thought, 10 years ago, that you would hear serious U.S. presidential candidates putting NAFTA in question? Or calling into question the desirability of concluding a world trade round?" Mandelson said in prepared remarks before a business luncheon in New York.

"We need to be straight with Americans and Europeans about just how badly disengagement from the global economy would hurt their political and economic interests. And that means being honest about the extent to which protectionism is a dead end," Mandelson said.

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A Fair Trader Headed for Maine House of Representatives

111507househopeful Elsie Flemings, a former Global Trade Watch staffer who played a leading role in the Oman FTA and CAFTA accountability fights, won the Democratic primary last week in Maine's District 35, beating opponent Gary Friedman with over 60% of the vote.

Although only 25, Flemings has already taken on corporate interests in Maine and fought for local economies. In 2007, she helped push the passage of the Informed Growth Act, which requires cities to conduct a full economic impact analysis study before allowing “big-box” stores (retail stores over 75,000 square feet) to break ground.

Flemings will face Republican nominee Rick Savage in the fall.

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Tearing down trees in anger

A new Pew poll out shows that Americans are dead last among 24 nations in their support of the very concept of trade, with only 15 percent saying "trade is very good for the economy". The Pew poll confirms what is already clear from anyone who watched the swing state primaries: you can't expect to get elected in 2008 by advocating more of the same failed NAFTA-WTO agenda.

Still, I am amazed that the very idea of trade is so problematic. In general, people tend to be in support of the notion of international exchange; our complaint has always been that pollsters don't ask specific enough questions, like, "Would you support an act of Congress that would reduce barriers to trade with a poor country that would push U.S. wages downwards?"

So the Pew poll is very clunky, not asking about specific trade policies or impacts, but rather about views of trade in general. If they asked more sophisticated questions, we would have likely seen more demonstration of the global rejection of this agenda as well, which are obvious from the protests in Korea against U.S. beef to the Irish public's rejection of a corporate-friendly EU treaty.

And some of our friends weigh in for a piece on the Pew poll by National Journal's Winter Casey:

"You have to remember that since 2002 wages have not moved in the United States despite six years of economic growth," said Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. "Our leaders have forced most Americans into very harsh competition through international trade, but they have protected the upper-income groups from the same competition. Therefore, international trade has played a significant role in redistributing income from the lower and middle classes to the rich. A lot of people can see that, even though the pundits and the Beltway bloviators try to deny it."

Paul Krugman and Dani Rodrik are weighing in on a recent line of argumentation about "trade = lower prices." In Dani's words:

Advocates of globalization love to argue that free trade lowers prices, and the argument seems sensible enough. Think of all the cheap goods from China that we can buy at Wal-Mart.  But anyone who understands comparative advantage knows that free trade affects relative prices, not the price level (the latter being the province of macro and monetary factors).  When a country opens up to trade (or liberalizes its trade), it is the relative price of imports that comes down; by necessity, the relative prices of its exports must go up!  Consumers are better off to the extent that their consumption basket is weighted towards importables, but we cannot always rely on this to be the case.

And thanks to David Sirota for addressing taking down the crock that Roger Lowenstein spewed over the weekend. I was so angry yesterday that this kind of garbage gets any play from serious newspapers that I had to rip down half the trees in my yard. Hey, anger is a gift, right?

I could make a much better case for so-called "free trade" agreements than Lazy Roger here, because he (and by extension his editors) are so blinded by their own privilege that they fail to take seriously any weaknesses in their pamphleteeing hoo-haa. They do not help their corporate or ideological masters by recycling 30 year old Chamber of Commerce fact sheets. At least we know where the re-educated editors from Pravda were sent.

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Internationalist? Only if Detroit and Big Cattle Say So

(Disclosure: Global Trade Watch has no preference among the candidates.)

With polls and protests casting the a shadow over the U.S. image in the world, how do you win hearts and minds in other countries? Is it by forcing them to dismantle consumer protections? Is it be forcing them to dismantle an industrial system which offered its workers much greater security than our downsized and offshored auto workers? Americans don't want what is left of the Progressive and New Deal and 1970s eras dismantled, and it appears that other countries don't either.

Emphasizing shared class and consumer interests would be a great way to unite the interests of Koreans and Americans, and overcome some of the animosity that Koreans feel towards the U.S. government. The Obama campaign is not helping its internationalist street cred by making the sole focus of its criticism of the Korea FTA that Korea has standards that are too high. Instead, they should be supporting higher U.S. food and product standards so that our producers can gain global credibility without having to resort to deregulatory shenanigans. In fact, take it a step further and commit to working with the Koreans at the WTO to ensure that country's retain full policy space to enact food and product standards without risking trade sanctions.

Don't get me wrong: I understand the domestic political advantage you can gain by beating up on other countries and making it seem like you're sticking up for the national interest. But you can also gain a similar advantage by critiquing corporations in the name of consumer and worker interests. And using big stick trade "diplomacy" for the benefit of special interests does not do many favors to our long term diplomatic interests.

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Shahnge you can't ask for

(Disclosure: Global Trade Watch has no preference among the candidates.)

The reactions to the reactions to the Obama campaign's economic appointment of Rubin acolyte Jason Furman show the distance we have yet to go in achieving an Uprising politics in this country. Brad DeLong is furious that the LA Times misrepresents Furman's views on Social Security (he fought against privatization). Paul Krugman thinks the concerns are "silly", and writes

Maybe I’m wrong, but my sense is that Jason Furman has become a proxy target for some Obama supporters who, now that the Great Satanness has been defeated, are suddenly starting to have the queasy feeling that their hero might be a bit of a …. centrist. I’m tempted to say I told you so; in fact, I guess I just did. But that’s all in the past now.

Anyway, lay off Jason Furman, a good guy who will do his best to defeat a candidate who gets his economic advice from Phil Gramm.

Ezra Klein writes:

What I can't figure out about the furor of Barack Obama's decision to name Jason Furman his economic policy director is where have these people been? This is like getting pissed at Project Runway because it's a show about clothes... if unions wanted an economic lefty, they should've endorsed John Edwards in the primary, or at least demanded that Obama staff up with trusted labor types in order to gain their support back when he was in a close primary race.

So criticism would have been okay back in the primary, when Democratic voters had choices. Now they have no choices, and so you can't ask for shahnge. Dean Baker hit the nail on the head:

Senator Obama's election can make an enormous difference in the political environment and the direction the country takes. But progressives must keep the pressure on. Senator Obama is an enormously talented political figure, but he alone is not going to bring about change. It takes a movement.

It's important to remember that Obama campaigned on a fair trade platform that helped him win key swing and early primary states like Iowa and Wisconsin. And now key stakeholders - with massive get-out-the-vote operations - are urging him not to change course now. According to today's NYT:

“For years we’ve expressed strong concerns about corporate influence on the Democratic Party,” John J. Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO, said Wednesday in a statement implicitly critical of the symbolism of the appointment, no matter Mr. Furman’s economic skills...

Of particular concern to labor is the Hamilton approach to trade. While labor wants restrictions that would preserve jobs, the Rubin camp wants free trade that might cost jobs but would be offset by a broader safety net channeling more income support and job training to the job losers...

In his statement criticizing Mr. Furman’s appointment, Mr. Sweeney said, “The fact that our country’s economic policies have become so dominated by the Wall Street agenda — and that it is causing working families real pain — is a top issue we will be raising with Senator Obama.”

 

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Shah-nge you can believe in, part II

(Disclosure: Global Trade Watch has no preference among the presidential candidates.)

Reactions to yesterday's Obama policy team announcement kept pouring in. From ABC News:

"When people see someone like Barack Obama promise change and then see that same person make their first move the hiring of a Wall Street economic team, that’s what sows disengagement and cynicism in the public,” said David Sirota, a one-time backer of former Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., who is the author of “The Uprising: An Unauthorized Tour of the Populist Revolt Scaring Wall Street and Washington."

From the LAT:

"We are very much taken aback that Furman has been put at the head of this team," said Marco Trbovich, a senior aide to United Steelworkers President Leo W. Gerard, whose support is considered crucial to Obama's success in heavily unionized areas of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Minnesota and other battleground states.

Trbovich worked with Furman during Kerry's presidential campaign, in which Furman was also an economic advisor.

"He is a very bright fellow, but he is an unalloyed cheerleader for the trade policies that have been very destructive to manufacturing jobs in this country," Trbovich said. "There are very serious concerns" about his appointment.

Perhaps the most enraging part of the record, according to Trbovich and others, were comments attributed to Furman on Wal-Mart.

In a paper presented in Washington, he suggested that there were some economic benefits from the company's low prices and other policies at a time when major labor unions had launched an anti-Wal-Mart campaign.

Furman worked most recently as a budget expert at the Brookings Institution in Washington heading the Hamilton Project, an economic policy research group. It was founded by Rubin, who now chairs the executive committee of Citigroup Inc.

Lori Wallach, a lawyer and leading opponent of free-trade policies, said the appointment was jarring from a policy and a political perspective.

"Furman seems like a liability, given his anti-worker writings and statements about Wal-Mart, fair trade and other middle-class issues," said Wallach, director of Public Citizen's global trade watch division.

And Obama's folks are planning some fundraising in China, according to the WP.

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Shah-nge you can believe in

(Disclosure: Global Trade Watch has no preference among the presidential candidates.)

Bloomberg is reporting that the Obama campaign has named Jason Furman of Robert Rubin's Hamilton Project as a paid advisor, joining University of Chicago economist Austan Goolsbee. Unpaid advisors include mainstreamers Larry Summers and Alan Blinder, and heterodoxers Jared Bernstein from EPI and James Galbraith from UT-Austin.

I'll comment on this line-up in more detail in the future, but it's worth noting that Goolsbee has been willing to question how so many non-trade issues got wrapped up in trade policy, Summers has increasingly been talking up inequality problems, and Blinder of course has been virtually ejected from the mainstream for deigning to mention that service jobs are being increasingly offshored. And while Chris Hayes is despairing at some of these names that are blasting in from the past, he reports that Furman promises to read up on Sen. Sherrod Brown and Rep. Mike Michaud's TRADE Act, unveiled last week.

Okay, and for absolutely no reason other than I love comedian Bob Odenkirk, I include the HBO's Mr. Show video below. About one minute in, Odenkirk's snot-nosed, donut-ordering nincompoop tells the clerk to "Keep the change" (pronounced "shah-nge"). I have been annoying my wife and friends for weeks by saying "Shah-nge you can believe in" anytime we discuss the presidential race. It is not a reflection of my political views but of my emotional immaturity that I post this:

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