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Opposition Grows As Legal Text of Divisive Trade Deal Is Finally Made Public

June 25, 2007

Opposition Grows As Legal Text of Divisive Trade Deal Is Finally Made Public

Deal Between White House and Some Democratic Leaders Would Facilitate Passage of More Bush NAFTA-Style Trade Pacts by Majority of GOP and Minority of Democratic Majority

WASHINGTON, DC – The legal text of changes to several Bush-negotiated NAFTA expansion agreements released today confirms that the essential changes listed by labor unions, environmental, consumer, faith and family farm groups as necessary to avoid their opposition to the free trade agreements were not made, said Public Citizen today.

“Today’s text release confirms that Congress is about to face a vote on yet another Bush NAFTA expansion agreement, because now we can see that unfortunately none of the core NAFTA-CAFTA provisions linked to offshoring and downward pressure on wages so strongly opposed by most congressional Democrats and the American public have been removed even as improved labor and environmental standards have been added on,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch division. “It’s like adding a new roof on a condemned building.”

A framework of changes to various Bush trade agreements announced in late March by some Democratic leaders had failed to address the majority of essential changes to the NAFTA-CAFTA model that Democratic base groups had listed this winter as necessary to avoid their opposition to the Bush-negotiated agreements. Some unions, environmental and other groups had awaited the legal text translating the Democrats’ “ask” and a tentative agreement to it by the administration announced May 10, hoping that the legal text would include more essential changes than had been listed in the limited summaries of the negotiations available.

Not one labor union or environmental, consumer, public health, anti-poverty, small business, faith or family farm group supports the deal. The announcement of the deal underlying today’s text came only 100 days after Democrats reclaimed the majority thanks to election of 37 House and Senate candidates who ran against the Bush trade agenda and replaced NAFTA-supporting incumbents.

“The Democratic majority arrived with a fair trade mandate from a public strongly opposed to staying the course on the failed Bush trade agenda,” said Wallach. “It is incomprehensible why any Democrats would ever prioritize reviving Bush trade deals opposed by their entire base and the majority of congressional Democrats over launching their own proactive trade agenda. They should aim instead at addressing the flood of unsafe imported foods and products, the many incentives to off-shore U.S. jobs, the endless ‘trade’ pact attacks on our environmental and safety laws and the nearly $800 billion trade deficit that is slowing U.S. economic growth and threatening global economic stability.”

The legal text fails to address most of the issues raised early this year by unions and other civil society groups as essential fixes. The text:

  • Fails to alter the outrageous NAFTA “Chapter 11” foreign investor privileges that create incentives for U.S. firms to move offshore and expose our most basic environmental, health, zoning and other laws – policies strongly advocated for by Democrats – to attack in foreign tribunals.
  • Does absolutely nothing to address bans on “Buy America” and anti-offshoring policies that safeguard American jobs and that Democrats have continually fought to expand and preserve.
  • Does nothing to fix the Peru FTA terms that would allow Citibank or other U.S. investors providing “private retirement accounts” to sue Peru if the country reverses its failed social security privatization. This deal helps lock Peru into the same privatized social security system that Democrats have been fighting against in the United States.
  • Rolls back the most extreme CAFTA-style drug patent rules to NAFTA-era language. However, the NAFTA language itself undermines rights available under World Trade Organization patent rules. Thus, while the amended text is better than CAFTA, it limits developing country trade partners’ rights relative to their status without the new limits that would be imposed by the FTAs, increasing the cost of medicine for our trading partners – costs that Democrats are trying hard to contain for our own healthcare system.
  • Fails to change the food import standards as needed so that only food meeting U.S. standards would be allowed.
  • Does nothing to address the NAFTA-style farm rules that resulted in 1.3 million Mexican peasant farmers losing their livelihoods. This is predicted to create dislocation and misery for large numbers of people, increase production of cocaine and cause instability in developing country trade partners.

For more information about these agreements, visit www.tradewatch.org.