At the same time that unemployment remains at historic highs, creeping back up to nine percent last month as more Americans who had given up looking for work return to the job market, corporations are lobbying hard in Washington, DC for free trade deals that will make it easier for them to send more jobs overseas.
As the U.S. Congress gears up to make decisions on the Korea free trade agreement, state legislators are urging Congress to consider the repercussions of another NAFTA-style agreement for states. The Korea agreement is anticipated as the first in a bevvy of bad trade agreements to come before Conress this year, with similar Colombia and Panama FTAs to follow. A bipartisan coalition of state legislators is asking fellow lawmakers from all 50 states to join them in sending a message to Congress. More information on the Korea FTA and how it will affect your state is available from Global Trade Watch.
As the nation’s unemployment rate ticks close to ten percent, the Obama administration has announced it will push for early 2011 passage of the largest trade agreement since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA) is modeled on NAFTA, with provisions which undermine the power of governments to enact labor, environmental, and other public interest standards; weaken regulatory authority over the finance sector; and grant investors special rights to sue governments in foreign tribunals.
Voters’ worries about job off-shoring and “free trade” have become dominant themes this election season. The latest NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll found the impact of trade and outsourcing is one of the only issues on which Americans of different classes, occupations and political persuasions agree. Thanks to the new Trade Data Center created by Public Citizen, there is a new resource to inform debates over job creation and for understanding the real effects of trade agreements on the state and local level.
We've detailed in the past the way new international trade deals empower corporations to undermine local regulations. A recent case highlights just how byzantine and dangerous the process is getting: A Canadian mining company is using a recently established Nevada subsidiary to use the federal Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) to try and overturn mining regulations in El Salvador. Earlier this month, a tribunal under CAFTA ruled against the US government’s objections to the mining company's lawsuit and allowed the case to proceed.
This Dispatch will highlight many of the rising concerns by
state leaders over recent federal trade deals, how states have been
taking action to increase their roles in the trade negotiation process,
and recent mobilization by those state leaders working with federal
allies to institutionalize the role of states in the trade negotiation
and implementation process.
As this Dispatch will outline, Buy American policies are a first step in promoting an alternative to the trade and deregulation policies that fueled the current economic crisis. Ultimately, we need policies that strengthen local tools for economic growth at home, combined with fair trade policies to raise wage standards abroad as well. Also, as corporate interests increasingly use trade agreements to restrict state authority to protect worker, consumer and environmental interests, states are increasingly reviewing those trade agreements in order to restore states' ability to effectively respond to economic crises and protect the long-term interests of working families.
For years, states have increasingly seen their hands tied by a federal government declaring that preemption voids state consumer, environmental and labor rights laws. The Bush administration in particular used its regulatory authority aggressively to block state law after state law.
The results have been catastrophic. Despite the myth that "no one saw the subprime meltdown coming," the reality is that thirty states enacted laws to rein in abuses by predatory lenders. However, the Bush administration used its regulatory authority over banks to shut down most of those predatory lending laws in the courts. This is just the most dramatic example of how preemption allowed the federal government to enforce its own inaction on state governments at the behest of corporate interests.
Back in May, when testing of baby bibs imported from China revealed high levels of lead, retail giant Wal-Mart claimed to recall the product. The vinyl portion of the bibs exceeded the lead levels set by Illinois for children's products. A spokeswoman for Wal-Mart said, "We at Wal-Mart are committed to working... to develop industry standards for the elimination of vinyl in children's products." Wal-Mart pulled the product from its shelves nationwide, but only provided refunds or replacements to customers in Illinois.
When the Montana State Senate voted overwhelmingly two weeks ago to oppose approval of reauthorization of "Fast Track" Trade Promotion authority for new trade deals, it sent a powerful message that the American people and state governments are tiring of misguided trade deals.