September 07, 2006


Caption: This chicken supports fair trade.

"I've been struck by lightning and struck by Congress..." Woody Guthrie

As one might expect, we can expect plenty of congressional skullduggery in the next few weeks.

It is likely that there will be another cynical effort to combine a minimal increase in the minimum wage with repealing the estate tax on those who inherit large amounts of wealth, a move that many groups that have worked long and hard to raise the minimum wage will oppose.

(Stay tuned for updates.)

But that's not all. It is likely that congressional leaders will push to expand NAFTA and CAFTA-like trade agreements to Peru, a move that won't stop there.

Last year, labor unions, community organizations, and religious groups mobilized to oppose CAFTA, which barely passed the House of Representatives.

NAFTA never enjoyed much popular support in the US, Mexico, and Canada before or after it went into effect in 1994. It failed miserably in delivering on its promises, decimating manufacturing in West Virginia and elsewhere and displacing nearly 2 million rural Mexicans from the land.

(Ironically, some of the people who are most rabid about immigrants now were NAFTA cheerleaders.)

Worse, NAFTA contained little-known provisions that created powerful tribunals which have undermined democratic decision making and efforts to promote public health and labor and environmental standards.

For a good overview, check Jeff Faux's 2006 book The Global Class War: How America's Bipartisan Elite Lost Our Future--and What It Will Take to Win It Back.

CAFTA, which has yet to be ratified by all the countries involved, includes the US, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic. It contains provisions even more threatening to workers' rights than NAFTA. Whereas the latter mostly impacted manufacturing and agriculture, CAFTA contains provisions that could threaten jobs in services and construction as well.

Expanding the NAFTA/CAFTA model to Peru and beyond will be bad for environmental standards, workers rights, democratic decision making, etc. both there and here.

Further, pushing for a corporate driven "free trade" version of globalization is very unpopular with the American people. According to Lake Research Partners:

*two-thirds of Americans are negative on the economy and over half of Americans personally know someone who was laid off. Many worry that future generations of Americans will be worse off;

*87 percent of Americans are concerned about outsourcing and 81 percent gave the government a C, D, or F grade in dealing with the issue;

*a 2005 poll found that Americans rated protecting American jobs as being almost as important as defending the country from terrorism (86 to 84 percent);

*as many as two-thirds of Americans oppose any trade agreement, including NAFTA and CAFTA.

For more information, check the American Friends Service Committee's Trade Matters site.

AFSC and its allies are urging people to call House members between now and this Friday to express opposition to expanding NAFTA and CAFTA to Peru. The number of the congressional switchboard is 202-224-3121. If callers are not sure who their representative is, they can give their zip code to be connected with the proper congressperson.


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