House Fight Against AGOA
The "African Growth and Opportunity" Act adopts the NAFTA formula for Africa: giving foreign corporations broad new rights that will increase their capacity to profit from control of African resources, while doing nothing to ensure that the benefits actually accrue to African nations and peoples. This NAFTA for Africa legislation also contains harsh eligibility rules that will force African nations to alter their economic policies and laws to suit the needs of foreign speculators and the dictates of the International Monetary Fund - despite the IMF's dismal record in the region.
Both the Africa bill and the CBI NAFTA expansion are highly controversial back home. The May 2000 vote was one of the unpopular pre-election trade votes many Representatives cast. The lopsided final vote represents a number of Representatives who switched their votes to support the Africa-CBI package as a way to balance their imminent announcements of opposition to PNTR for China.
While Pro-Africa, AIDS, religious, labor and environmental groups opposed these bills, no lobbying was done on them for months with citizen group and labor focus shifted to the China vote.
For four years, public opposition beat the corporations trying to get this bundle of special interest trade bills through Congress. In passing AGOA-CBI, the special interests won -- but only after trashing the democratic process by rushing a vote on a package of special interest trade measures that Congress was not able to review in advance. Indeed, many did not realize that a 23-country NAFTA expansion and a special deal for Chiquita banana was attached to the Africa bill.
BACKGROUND: The AGOA-CBI conference report (the bill which was voted May 4, 2000) was not filed until 10 A.M. the day of the vote and no summary was prepared before the vote. The rule requiring a bill to be available 24 hours before a vote was waived. Copies of the legislation literally were not available for Members until after the debate started. Members went to the floor thinking they were voting on an Africa bill, not knowing that a 23-country NAFTA expansion and a pile of special deals was attatched: a special Chiquita banana trade deal, a special wool suit-makers deal and a special Israeli apparel import bill.