'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Saturday, January 24, 2004

What the Fellas Say About One Head of the Monster

First off, a little background for those who don't follow the unfolding narrative of neoliberal globalization. The Free Trade Area of the Americas is a proposed trade and investment agreement that, if enacted, will govern all of North, Cental, and South America, except for Cuba. It is another tool designed in secret by unelected corporate officials, like NAFTA and GATT before it. The purpose of this tool and the effect it will likely have are, as always, under dispute. According to those negotiating its creation, the FTAA will spread the prosperity of the economically advantaged in our hemisphere to the disadvantaged, it will spread democracy and higher standards of living. According to its critics, the FTAA will perpetuate the familiar economic dynamic in which the South provides cheap labor for the North. Here's an excerpt from an essay by Aziz Choudry :

Latin American activists sometimes dub the FTAA and the World Trade Organization (WTO) as “the two headed monster” of neoliberalism. For Indigenous Peoples, neoliberal globalization is the latest chapter in over 500 years of colonialism, dispossession and genocide in the Americas.


The FTAA promotes a package of reforms which include: minimal controls on big business; unrestricted foreign investment; unlimited export of profits; privatization of public assets, utilities and services; full exposure of domestic markets to cheap imports; privately-funded and owned infrastructure operating through deregulated markets.

An FTAA services agreement would mean market-driven service sectors, including water, education, postal services, financial services, energy, and healthcare. Its intellectual property agreement will accelerate the commodification and privatization of life itself and protect the monopoly rights of pharmaceutical and agrochemical corporations over the rights of people to have access to affordable lifesaving drugs or the ability to grow crops from their own seeds. The FTAA will lock in an exploitative employment regime across all 34 countries – a competitive, low-cost, deunionized and flexible (temporary, part-time and contract-based) workforce. Proposed negotiating drafts detail even more radical commitments to free trade and investment than the WTO.

A decade or so ago at this point in a post like this, I would have to offer an argument that the left's point of view is the correct one, but now we can just check the facts. The FTAA is very similar to NAFTA, which has been around for several years now, so let's see how NAFTA is doing:

More than one million U.S. jobs have been lost due to corporations relocating to Mexico since NAFTA went into effect six years ago. Some eight million Mexicans have fallen from the middle class into poverty, and an explosion in industry-related illnesses and birth defects have been reported along the U.S.-Mexico border.*

So, anyway, without further ado ... below is what each of the Dem candidates had to say in response to two questions dealing with this issue; question (1) is "What will you do to ensure that global trade and international economic development promote workers rights, good jobs and workers’ well-being?" and (2) is "Do you support or oppose the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), based on the NAFTA model that has created import surges that cost jobs and does not require enforcement of internationally recognized workers’ rights?" In some cases the candidates did not comment on question (2) but indicated whether they support or do not support the FTAA. (from here)

Dean: (1) I support fair trade. I would not negotiate trade agreements that do not include meaningful labor, environmental, and human rights protections. I would not pursue trade policies that undermine important U.S. laws and regulations, especially those that protect American workers. I will vigorously enforce anti-dumping laws.

(2) I would oppose any trade agreement that does not require enforcement of internationally recognized workers’ rights.

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Edwards: (1)Free trade has to be fair trade. I know from first-hand experience how unfair trade agreements have hurt many American communities. Growing up in mill towns in North and South Carolina, I saw people like my father who worked hard in the mill their whole lives. Yet these mill towns and the good people who live in them, have been devastated by foreign trade. At the same time, I also believe trade is an important part of a growing economy. I have no doubt that when America’s workers have the chance to compete on a level playing field, they can win. I’ll do everything in my power to make sure that trade agreements are fair, that American workers get a level playing field, and that there is real support for American workers and their communities. When I negotiate trade agreements, I will follow certain fundamental principles. Both sides should give up something. Agreements should be fair and enforceable. Agreements should have adequate labor and environmental protections. And trade agreements should have real, tangible benefits for U.S. businesses and U.S. workers. I’ll apply these principles to future trade agreements, including the Free Trade Area of the Americas and future World Trade Organization agreements.

(2) Opposes.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Kerry: (1) As President, I will insist that core environmental and labor standards are included in all trade agreements - and I’d enforce them for a change. We need to end child labor, improve standards for all workers, and increase our commitment to fighting global environmental problems - not watch them eroded by unfair agreements. I’ve worked to expand trade adjustment assistance and make sure that it reaches workers who are displaced. The current administration’s arrogance on matters of international diplomacy has squandered the tools we have to convince potential trading partners to work in cooperation to raise environmental and labor standards. I had first hand experience in negotiating trade agreements in Vietnam and in that case the prospect of opening markets convinced them to cooperate with return of POWs. The same principles should apply when negotiating trade with other countries.

(2) I do not feel that we have done enough to enforce labor and environmental accords that were signed with NAFTA. I would impose stronger enforcement, as well as greater diplomatic pressure and more domestic investment to guarantee that trade not only lifts our economy, but also doesn’t leave Americans behind.

- - - - - - - - - -

Kucinich: (1) Free trade has been a disaster for our economy, workers around the world and the environmental as well as our sovereignty. Free trade must be replaced with bilateral Fair Trade agreements in which the rights of workers to organize and enjoy the fruits of their labors must be uppermost. The damage done by “structural adjustment” programs around the world are well documented. See, for example, Joseph Stiglitz’s book, Globalization and Its Discontents, for an insider’s view of the damage that our trade policies have inflicted on workers around the world. Even more shocking is the revelation that countries like China and Botswana which are recognized for economic progress have rejected the conventional wisdom of world bankers and oligarchs.

(2) Opposes.

- - - - - - - - - - -

Lierberman: (1) Protecting worker rights and economic prosperity go hand in hand. One cannot be achieved without the other. Just as our international trade preferential agreements require enforcement of worker rights, I believe the same is necessary for international trade agreements and investments.

(2) The completion of the Free Trade Area of the Americas is very important for continued U.S. economic prosperity. We are now at time in the world when it is important to have neighbors who are economically and politically stable. The FTAA will take us a long ways towards establishing economic and political stability in our hemisphere. I agree the NAFTA model has had its share of problems. It was nevertheless an important first step for including trade and environment issues in trade agreements. But we should improve on NAFTA to make sure that we are not unnecessarily exposed to risks and to protect workers’ rights and the environment. Additionally” I have spoken out regarding China, where six to eight million people toil in inhumane conditions in forced labor camps. child labor numbers are estimated to be at about nine million. That’s bad for Chinese workers, and it is also bad for our workers because it makes China’s products cheaper on the world market and thus gives them an unfair competitive advantage.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Sharpton: (1)Any trade agreement I support would have to have worker’s rights, human rights, and environmental protections built into them. NAFTA and the WTO do not provide such protections, which is why I oppose them. I support international trade agreements that are fair and protect workers rights and the environment.

(2) Opposes.

Boy, that Lieberman response is a real shocker.

[Thanks to mystery helper B for finding the linked PDF file]

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