Fast Track, NAFTA, and the future of farming
Jill Taylor Bussiere
jdt at itol.com
Wed Dec 5 13:14:31 EST 2001
This vote coming up in Congress tommorrow, Fast Track for North American
Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Thursday, will greatly influence farms
incomes. NAFTA has already negatively impacted folk in the US and other
countries in North America. It has "led to huge trade deficits, the loss of
more than 750,000 U.S. jobs, declines in income for family farmers, lower
wages for Mexican workers and weakened environmental protections."
"While thousands of working families are trying to rebuild their lives, it
is outrageous to push controversial legislation that (under NAFTA) has
already cost 1 million manufacturing jobs and promises to cost many more."
(Both quotes above from the article below by John Nichols)
You can call these numbers:
Call your Representative and urge her/him to oppose H.R. 3005 (ask to speak
person who handles trade issues). Get your friends to do the same. Our
allies at the AFL-CIO have conveniently provided a toll-free number for you
to use: 1-800-393-1082 (OR you can use our favorite number, provided
courtesy of the Chamber of Commerce: 1-888-832-4246) - just enter your
zip-code when prompted and you'll be connected to your Member's office
Fast Track Fight: House GOP sets Thursday vote as labor, environmentalists
mobilize opposition December 5 @ 1:42am by John Nichols of The Nation
In the first days of his presidency, when George W. Bush was plotting his
legislative agenda for 2001, he identified as a top priority the gaining of
a congressional grant of fast-track trade negotiating authority. The
president said it was critical that his administration have exclusive
authority to define the role of the United States in a new Free Trade Area
of the Americas.
Each deadline for a congressional vote on fast track authority has passed
without satisfaction for the president, however.
Despite the radical changes in the political landscape that have occurred
during the course of the year, the one constant has been the inability of
the Bush administration and its congressional allies to garner sufficient
support in the House of Representatives for this authority. House
Democrats -- and a substantial number of renegade Republicans -- have simply
been unwilling to allow the administration -- and the corporate lobbyists
with which it works closely on trade matters -- to set labor, environmental
and human rights standards in a hemispheric expansion of free trade referred
to as "NAFTA on steroids." (The House is where the fight is on fast track
authority, since the Senate is more supportive of the legislation.)
This week, Bush and business lobbyists sworn to his cause will launch a
last-ditch effort to gain approval this year of fast track authority from a
reluctant House. After numerous delays and retrenchments, House GOP leaders
have scheduled action on Fast Track for 10 a.m. Thursday. With Congress'
end-of-the-year recess fast approaching, House Ways and Means Committee
Chairman Bill Thomas, R-Cal., says, "There will be no delay in the date."
Having finally drawn their line in the sand, Bush and his allies are
preparing for a no-holds-barred battle. House Majority Leader Dick Armey,
R-Texas, has declared: "The president can't be limited in this area, in any
Armey is already attempting to link fast track authority with the fight
against terrorism -- echoing an administration line launched just hours
after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.The president is taking time out from
war-making duties to personally lobby wavering Republicans and Democrats.
And White House and GOP congressional aides have made no secret that they
stand ready to make concessions on economic stimulus legislation in order to
win votes for fast track authority.
For Bush and Republican congressional leaders, the stakes are high. Their
biggest corporate contributors have lobbied long and hard for fast track
authority. Without it, the president will have trouble advancing the
unrestricted free-trade regimen supported by big business and Washington's
"free markets uber alles" think tanks.
The problem, however, is that top Republicans have not been able to convince
enough members of Congress to make the leap of faith with them.
So far, in fact, Bush has been no more successful than his predecessor in
getting Congress to relinquish its constitutionally mandated "power to
regulate commerce with foreign nations." During President Clinton's second
term, Congress twice refused to grant him fast track negotiating
authority -- in large part because of concerns raised by unions and
environmental groups that argued against any move to expand free trade
without ironclad protections for workers, communities and natural resources.
The experience of the 7-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement, which
has led to huge trade deficits, the loss of more than 750,000 U.S. jobs,
declines in income for family farmers, lower wages for Mexican workers and
weakened environmental protections, made expansion of the free-trade zones a
tough sell in the Clinton years.
"We just pointed to the statistics from NAFTA and asked: Do you really want
more of this?" explained Mike Dolan, an organizer for Public Citizen's
Global Trade Watch.With a slowing economy, the Bush administration's task
would seem to be significantly more daunting than was that of the Clinton
camp. However, Bush has significant political capital he can spend on the
lobbying effort. With a war-time approval rating of close to 90 percent, a
powerful bully pulpit and stimulus package favors to trade -- including, in
an appeal to swing Democrats, increased aid for displaced workers -- the
president could have some success tipping the balance for fast track
His credibility is undermined, however, by congressional wariness following
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick's trip to the World Trade
Organization summit in Qatar. Zoellick belied his pronouncements about
shaping responsible trade policies with his willingness to trade away
protections for U.S. farmers and farmers -- particularly in the steel and
textile sectors -- that have strong support in Congress.As the fast track
authority vote approaches, labor, environmental and human rights groups will
be reminding wavering members of Congress of Zoellick's penchant for
refusing to shape trade policies that reflect congressional intentions.
Leading the push is the AFL-CIO, which organized a "National Call-In Day"
Tuesday to tell House members: "This is not the time for fast track. While
thousands of working families are trying to rebuild their lives, it is
outrageous to push controversial legislation that (under NAFTA) has already
cost 1 million manufacturing jobs and promises to cost many more."
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