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Final sentate hearing on the Korea, Panama, and Colombia FTAs

Final sentate hearing on the Korea, Panama, and Colombia FTAs

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Dear friends:

This Thursday, the U.S. Senate will hold its final hearing on the Korea, Panama and Colombia Free Trade Agreements. This is the so-called “mock mark-up” in which Senators are able to recommend changes before the pacts are formally submitted to Congress for votes under Fast Track.

Senator Ron Wyden chairs the Senate Subcommittee on International Trade and is officially “undecided” on all three trade pacts.  He could have an important voice in this full committee hearing, but only if he chooses to use it.     Please call Senator Wyden’s office now and leave a message urging him to oppose all three pending Free Trade Agreements — then let us know what you’ve heard by emailing info@oregonfairtrade.org.   Portland:  (503) 326-7525 Eugene:  (541) 431-0229 La Grande:  (541) 962-7691 Medford:  (541) 858-5122 Bend:  (541) 330-9142 Salem:  (503) 589-4555 Washington, DC: (202) 224-5244   Background Info Thursday’s Senate hearing is on the largest package of trade deals in over a decade.  The final outcome of the Korea, Panama and Colombia Free Trade Agreements will shape the future of U.S. trade policy for many years to come.  The United States simply cannot afford any more job-killing trade policies that include:

Special Rights for Foreign Investors: The investment chapters of all three pending FTAs continue to grant foreign investors special rights to challenge federal, state and municipal policies, such as environmental, zoning, public health and other regulations, in international tribunals that completely circumvent the U.S. judicial system.  Even U.S. court rulings can be challenged under the pacts.  In addition, these provisions promote offshoring and threaten public interest policies abroad, by granting U.S. corporations the same extraoridnary rights if they move abroad.

Imprudent Limitations on Food Safety: All three FTAs still contain language requiring the United States to limit import inspections and to accept imported food that does not meet domestic safety standards.  The same goes for imported toys and other consumer products.

Public Procurement Restrictions: All three FTAs continue to ban many “Buy American” and “Buy Local” procurement policies that attempt to prevent offshoring.  The pacts’ procurement provisions also expose renewable-energy, recycled-content and other “green” and socially-responsible procurement practices to challenge.  They also open prevailing wage policies to challenge.

Inadequate Protections for Workers: All three FTAs fail to adequately protect worker rights in the countries we’re trading with.  In fact, they contain language explicitly forbidding reference to the International Labor Organization’s (ILO’s) core conventions on labor rights.  This language was added by the Bush administration back in 2007, winning praise from business groups and scorn from labor unions.

Harmful Agricultural Provisions: All three FTAs contain NAFTA-style agricultural rules that have hurt small farmers and food security around the world.  Expanding these provisions into new countries will force people off their land — or into the illicit drug trade.

Incomplete Access to Medicine: All three FTAs continue certain NAFTA-style intellectual property provisions that undermine countries’ access to affordable medications as outlined in the WTO’s Doha Declaration.

Even More Financial Deregulation: Each negotiated before the financial meltdown, all three FTAs contain provisions that handcuff governments’ ability to regulate banks, insurance companies and other financial institutions and to institute commonsense capital controls during times of crisis.

This is not sound trade policy.  Please call Senator Wyden now at (202) 224-5244 or any of the numbers above, and urge him to oppose all three pending Free Trade Agreements.
Need more reasons to call?  Consider that:

  • The Korea Free Trade Agreement is the largest trade deal of its type since NAFTA.  The federal government’s own International Trade Commission predicts it will increase the overall U.S. trade deficit.  The Economic Policy Institute further predicts that Korean imports will displace an estimated 888,000 American jobs within just seven years if the deal moves forward.  Some export-related jobs will also be created, but not nearly that many — and the jobs expected to be lost are in much higher-paying industries than those that might be created.
  • The Colombia Free Trade Agreement threatens to exacerbate the ongoing human rights catastrophe in Colombia.  In recent years, more labor leaders have been assassinated in Colombia than in the rest of the world combined.  The country also recently surpassed the Sudan as home to the most internally-displaced people in the world, something Colombia’s own government predicts will only worsen should the FTA be implemented.
  • The Panama Free Trade Agreement not only repeats most of the problems found in NAFTA and CAFTA, but it does so with a notorious tax haven.  Panama has long been a target of both the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the G7’s “Financial Action Task Force” for its resistance to international norms in combating tax evasion and money laundering.  Put simply, this deal locks in benefits for corporate tax dodgers from Wall Street and beyond.

Your call is important.  Please make it now.