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Take action now: Free trade agreements on fast track
October 10, 2011South Korean farmers denouce FTA

On October 2, President Obama submitted free trade agreements (FTAs) with South Korea, Colombia and Panama to Congress for a vote. Under fast track process, the three agreements must be quickly approved or disapproved by Congress in their present form without change. It is likely that both houses of Congress will vote on them by Wednesday, October 12.

It is URGENT that you call your U.S. representative and senators and tell them that you want them to vote against these bills. Use the talking points below. Call each office on Tuesday or early on Wednesday before the vote. Use the U.S. Capitol switchboard toll free line: 1-888-291-9824.

Public Citizen provides this fact sheet on the three proposed FTAs.

  • All of the bills are modeled after the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which, since its passage in 1994, has wreaked much economic hardship on impoverished people and the middle class in Mexico. In addition, NAFTA has resulted in the loss of more than 500,000 U.S. jobs.
  • The FTAs primarily will benefit corporations and will do so at the detriment of most citizens of the U.S., Korea, Colombia, and Panama. The bills have provisions which allow corporations to sue governments if the environmental protection laws of a country cause the corporations to lose profits. They also weaken banking regulations, such as the Dodd-Frank bill passed last year, which are in place to protect the rights of ordinary citizens.
  • Although the Korea FTA will create jobs in some sectors, a study by the Economic Policy Institute projects that in the first seven years, more than 159,000 U.S. jobs will be lost overseas because of the bill. The report also projects that the U.S. trade deficit with other countries will increase dramatically if the Korea FTA is approved. Even the U.S. International Trade Commission projects that this FTA will result in the excessive loss of jobs, though the Obama administration states that it will “support” jobs.
  • The Colombia FTA will lower tariffs on imported U.S. agricultural commodities making it difficult for farmers in that country to sell their produce at competitive prices. This will lead to a severe reduction of income to already poor farmers as happened in Mexico under NAFTA. An additional tragic fact is that in recent years many labor leaders have been murdered in Colombia due to their organizing work. The Colombian government has been lax in pursuing convictions for these murders. President Obama has negotiated an “Action Plan” to improve this situation, but unfortunately it is only a plan; the Colombia FTA does not contain strong provisions that will require the government there to enforce the laws.
  • Panama has long been a tax haven where U.S. corporations could find a place to shelter and dodge their taxes. The Panama FTA does not have strong provisions to prevent this kind of activity from occurring in the future.
  • A good alternative to these bills is the TRADE Act of 2010, a bill sponsored by 10 U.S. senators and over 140 U.S. Congresspersons. The bill embodies a fair trade model as opposed to the free trade model which has caused so much grief in the world.

These pieces give many more details about these bills:

1) A letter regarding the Korea FTA sent to President Obama by 550 faith, labor, environmental, and consumer protection organizations [including the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns (MOGC).]
2) A statement regarding the Colombia FTA from the Interfaith Working Group on Trade and Investment (of which the MOGC is a member)
3) A link to a statement by Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, regarding FTAs, published on Politico.com.
4) A statement from Public Citizen regarding the Panama FTA.

Please send this message on to anyone else that you know who will call their elected officials to help stop passage of these bills. Many phone calls are needed to counteract the pressure that corporate lobbyists are putting on Congress.

The photo above of South Korean farmers denouncing the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement was taken in December 2010 and is found on the East Asia Forum website.

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