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Trade: Elements for fair, just policies

NewsNotes, September-October 2008

An increasing number of U.S. Americans are becoming aware that, in order to benefit more people and to honor the environment, current trade agreements must be changed. The Interfaith Working Group on Trade and Investment (IWG), a coalition in which the MOGC is an active member, wrote the following statement as a guide toward what we envision is necessary to make the existing trade model more fair and just. The IWG has recently published an alternative policies document, “Trade as if people and Earth mattered: A working document on alternatives,” which provides more details of the desired changes.

International trade can be one engine of economic progress for developing countries. But the United States and developing countries alike need fair and just trade agreements that are genuinely shaped to meet the goals of sustainable development and poverty reduction. …

Trade policies and agreements must put people first. They should further genuine social and economic development for our neighbors around the world while preserving and creating good jobs here at home. They must support -- not hinder – governments in adopting policies to protect public health and the natural environment. Trade policies must strike a balance between creating a predictable structure for international trade and preserving the policy space necessary for governments to foster and secure economic, social and human development for all their citizens.

A new trade framework should include the following key elements:
  • Ensure that trade agreements are formulated with full democratic accountability and citizen participation both in the United States and U.S. trading partners.
  • Require (pre and post) country impact evaluations to assess the effects of provisions in trade agreement on key issues such as poverty eradication, job growth, food security and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
  • Respect the right of peoples and nations to democratically determine their own agricultural and food policies.
  • Fully respect the right of developing countries to safeguard and nurture their own domestic economies and the livelihoods of their people through the implementation of trade policies, regulations and mechanisms which promote and protect their own small-holder farmers, urban workers, and domestic manufacturers.
  • Prioritize long-term ecological sustainability and the stability of the climate, and protect and conserve the richness and diversity of the natural world.
  • Exclude provisions that require the liberalization or deregulation of essential public services, such as water, health care and education.
  • Reject intellectual property rights restrictions which make it more difficult for people in developing countries to have access to affordable essential medicines, as well as intellectual property provisions involving patents on seeds and other life-forms.
  • Exclude the undemocratic provisions known as “investor-state” law suits, in which international investors are able to sue host governments in unelected international tribunals over actual or potential loss of future corporate profits resulting from democratically enacted domestic policies and regulations.

Crafting trade policies that will foster the wellbeing of our global neighbors and the natural environment will also improve U.S. well-being. We call on the new president and Congress to look to long-term U.S. interests in a more secure, stable and just world, in which poverty and inequality are declining and all people have the resources needed for lives of dignity, sufficiency and community participation.