Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Trade in the Americas Updates

AFTA ALERT: "The Bush administration appears to be closing in fast on a new NAFTA-style trade agreement with three countries in South America - Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru," writes Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch (1/25). Current negotiations could add Colombia and Ecuador to an agreement which was reached between the U.S. and Peru in December - making an Andean Free Trade Agreement (AFTA). "The proposed AFTA is a cookie-cutter copy of the same failed NAFTA and CAFTA model - bad news for us and them, but Corporate America will love it," Global Trade Watch writes. They note that Colombia is "a labor-rights-free zone" where over 2,100 labor union activists have been assassinated since 1991. "Such a deal would spell the end of any meaningful leverage against the Colombian government's rampant human rights violations - literally an issue of life or death," the alert says. Global Trade Watch notes that Peruvian president Alejandro Toledo suggested including stronger labor provisions in AFTA, "but this offer was harshly rejected by the Republican congressman in charge of trade policy," Rep. Bill Thomas (R-CA) and "is not included in the text of the U.S.-Peru deal reached in December that Colombia and Ecuador are being pressured now to join." The Bush administration "is forcing a deal that will allow U.S. companies to relocate jobs to places where unions are suppressed with frequent assassinations-with absolutely no enforceable recourse for beleaguered workers."

Corporate lobbyists have an undue influence on current global trade talks, says a new report by ActionAid International... The report cites examples of "privileged corporate access to, and excessive influence over the WTO policymaking process," and notes 93% of the official external advisors to the US Trade Representative are from corporate lobby groups and multinational companies such as Burger King, Coca-Cola, McDonalds, and Pfizer. For a copy of the report visit here.

U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman last week said the administration hopes to move trade agreements negotiated with Oman and Peru through Congress this year despite the crowded legislative calendar, Inside US Trade reports (1/27). Portman said he was hopeful Congress could approve the Peru agreement before July, when a new Peruvian government will take office. He signaled, "it may be safer to act before a new government, which could be left-leaning, comes into office. Portman said that a Peru FTA has "good prospects" for passage, but a Democratic Senate aide says that the Peru FTA will "likely be controversial" because it is "close enough" to the hard-fought CAFTA deal.

The economic situation in Bolivia explains much about that nation's election of Evo Morales as President, writes Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research on (1/21). Weisbrot notes that for nearly 20 years Bolivia implemented the demands of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for privatization and other market-driven economic policies, but those changes "have brought little in the way of economic benefits to the average Bolivian." The country's per capita income is actually lower today than it was 25 years ago, with 63% of Bolivians living below the poverty line. Weisbrot says that Bolivia's slow economic growth during the period of U.S. driven economic policies resulted in the "worst long-term economic failure in modern Latin American history." This difference over economic policy "is the main thing that has set Washington on a collision course with most of Latin America," Weisbrot explains, noting that Morales is now the sixth candidate in the last seven years to win a presidential race in Latin America while campaigning explicitly against free-market "neoliberalism." With help from oil-rich Venezuela, Bolivia may be able to stand up against the IMF. "At some point Washington policymakers and economists will revisit the economic evidence and decide that perhaps some of their policy prescriptions have been wrong," Weisbrot says. "But by that time, Latin America will have long passed them by."

Source: Jim Jontz, Americans for Democratic Action - Trade Bits, January 29, 2006


Post a Comment

<< Home