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New Public Citizen Report Documents Systematic Bipartisan Betrayals on “Deals” Made in Exchange for Trade Votes, from Clinton’s NAFTA Deals to Bush Deals

Report: Even in Rare Case When Deals Are Funded, “Fixes” Prove Ineffective in Countering Feared Threats, Funding Terminates or Recollection of Deal Fades While Political Ire at Home Over Trade Vote Grows with Each Plant Closing, Farm Foreclosure or Trade Deficit Story

 WASHINGTON, D.C.– As the Bush administration steps up efforts to obtain congressional approval for the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) NAFTA expansion, Public Citizen released a new report documenting the fate of promises made to members of Congress since 1992 in exchange for their support of controversial trade agreements. A press conference call included former chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Rep. Esteban Torres (D-Calif.), who supported NAFTA in exchange for unfulfilled, high-profile promises to establish and adequately fund U.S.-Mexico border environmental and development institutions. The report, Trade Wars – Revenge of the Myth: Deals for Trade Votes Gone Bad, reveals that of the more than 90 promises made to win trade votes since NAFTA, just 16 were kept.

“This report provides a somber warning to members of Congress who may be approached by the Bush administration to vote for CAFTA in exchange for promised new programs or policies to ameliorate feared CAFTA damage or in exchange for unrelated goodies for the district,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. “The trade votes and the damage wrought by bad trade agreements last forever, with voter ire only escalating over time, while our research shows that few deals made for trade votes are met and the few that are often fail to remedy the feared problems.”

In the report, Public Citizen documents 64 policy promises made for trade vote support. Many of these promises were memorialized in the text of trade agreements’ implementing legislation. The overall finding of the report is that if appropriated funds are not locked in an account and if the policy change or amendment to a trade pact is not made before the trade vote, funding and follow through is not likely to be forthcoming after the vote. Promises to seek future renegotiations of trade agreement provisions or to take action in future negotiations were broken 100 percent of the time, perhaps explaining why a recent Bush administration promise to seek renegotiations of certain CAFTA textile and apparel rules of origin if the agreement is implemented have only drawn support from those already expected to vote for CAFTA. Of the past policy promises designed to put a gloss on a contested agreement and give political cover to members of Congress, just seven were kept and 57 broken.

  • The George W. Bush administration failed to hire 72 new customs inspectors to fight illegal transshipped imports or to freeze Pakistani textile and apparel quotas as promised to House members from textile and apparel states in exchange for the deciding votes for Fast Track in 2002.
  • Bush administration Fast Track promises to farm state representatives to provide special access on future negotiations, to exclude certain commodities from future negotiations and to open China’s market also remain unfulfilled.
  • Both the Bush and Clinton administrations repeatedly broke promises for greater funding for Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) and expansion of TAA’s coverage.
  • Bush administration promises made to obtain GOP votes for Fast Track in industrial states with steel industries and southeastern and northwestern states with timber industries were reversed following World Trade Organization or NAFTA tribunal rulings on U.S. steel safeguards and softwood lumber duties on Canada.
  • The Clinton administration’s failed NAFTA promises regarding safeguards for specific agricultural sectors, establishment and funding of U.S.-Mexico border institutions, establishment and funding of NAFTA environmental and labor side agreements, and establishment of human rights oversight panels related to the China PNTR vote are also examined.
  • The same members of Congress have been betrayed by both Clinton and Bush on some unfulfilled policy deals.

Public Citizen also documents 29 pork barrel deals made in exchange for yes votes on trade agreements of which nine were kept and 20 broken. The report is based on research examining the discrepancy between funding for promised deals that was authorized in various trade agreement implementing bills and the funding that was actually appropriated in subsequent bills and budgets and the actions of GOP and Democratic administrations to implement promised policies and projects.

Observers expect the Bush administration to begin offering deals to obtain votes for CAFTA as attempts to sell the agreement on its merits have failed. CAFTA was signed on May 28, 2004, but a wide gap in congressional support for CAFTA NAFTA expansion remains.

“In the eleven years since NAFTA’s implementation, many members of Congress have learned a hard lesson: the political ire generated by trade votes lingers and, indeed, seems to fester over time with each plant closing, overseas relocation and offshoring or trade deficit news story reminding voters of how angry they were about their representative’s vote on a trade matter while even in the rare occasion when a promised program is initially funded, either that funding ends or the policy is ruled against at the WTO or the program proves ineffective at countering the feared damage or most often the program is never funded or is not implemented. While the initial hoopla of the deal’s announcement fades, the trade pact’s damage accrues and voters get angry,” said Wallach.

Based on past trade fights, as the Bush administration’s desperation to drum up support for CAFTA builds, one can anticipate offers to safeguard specific agricultural commodities or exclude commodities from future agreements, to provide labor and/or environmental “trade capacity building” monies or to establish new “parallel” labor or environmental institutions, to increase the funding or scope of Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), and to add more customs textile and apparel rule of origin inspectors or food safety inspectors.

However, in the past, 89 percent of the 64 policy promises made for past trade votes were broken. Pure pork barrel promises fared little better, with 69 percent of these deals being broken.

In the current debate over CAFTA, the experience of former Rep. Torres has symbolized the broken promises surrounding past trade agreements. In 1993, Torres, as then-chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, worked to pass NAFTA after receiving a promise from the Clinton administration to establish and fund agencies to fulfill one of Torres’ longtime goals: the building of basic water and sanitation infrastructure and the clean-up of existing environmental and health disaster along the U.S.-Mexico border. Torres also obtained a promise to funddevelopment programs for communities in the United States and Mexico impacted by NAFTA. For several years after NAFTA, however, the funding was not authorized nor were communities certified as possible recipients of project funds. Torres has become vocal in warning current members of Congress to be wary of the promises offered to them by the Bush administration in exchange for their CAFTA support.

“In Spanish, there is a proverb, ‘Dime con quien andas y te digo quien eres,’ or tell me with whom you walk and I’ll tell you who you are,” said Torres.  “We owe all those who could be adversely affected by CAFTA, for years to come, to demonstrate that we have learned from our past mistakes,” Torres said.