Monday, July 24, 2006

Free Trade Agreements

Both the Oman and Peru Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) are likely to be finalized by Congress before the August recess. Action is critical.

The Constitution requires that trade agreements be voted on first in the House and then in the Senate. This means that even though the Oman FTA passed the Senate by a 60-34 vote in June, it needs to come up before the Senate again.
The House passage of the Oman Trade Agreement by a vote of 221-205 indicates a decided shift in U.S. trade politics. Why? Congress is feeling the effects of the electorate’s growing awareness of the impact of trade policies not only on our own workers, but also on our trade partners. Trade policies have created our record trade deficit, which is declared unsustainable by many economists, as well as steady job loss in the U.S. These policies are also decidedly responsible for the increase in undocumented immigrants, as workers from other countries come to the United States seeking jobs lost as a result of provisions in the trade agreements with their native countries.

We are working to impress upon senators the fact that becoming a trade partner with Oman, a nation whose record of human trafficking and forced labor has been noted by recent State Department reports, is totally unworthy of the legislative body of a nation supposedly dedicated to freedom and human rights.

Meanwhile the Peru FTA, another CAFTA-like agreement, is expected to be before both houses of Congress. This agreement mirrors the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) in many aspects. In a nation where one half live in poverty and where agriculture is the main source of income, Peruvian farmers of cotton, wheat, rice and corn will be pitted against U.S. farmers whose crops are subsidized, enabling them to sell them more cheaply on foreign markets. Peruvians will be the losers. Oxfam America cites the fact that twenty-five thousand U.S. cotton producers receive $3.5 million in government subsidies while twenty-eight thousand Peruvian farmers receive nothing, decidedly an unfair advantage.

This is a great opportunity for those of us who care about fair trade! Take action here today.