Make your own free website on Tripod.com


 
Working Together for

                Global Economic Justice

           

    September News:

    1.   Congress to Vote on Peru FTA in October

    2.    Notes From the Chair:  Beware of a Little Progress

    3.    The NAFTA Superhighway Myth

    4.    Slavery:  The Dark Side of Globalization

    5.    Did You Know ... ?

    6.    Farm Bill Update

    7.    Fair Trade Toys and Safer Recycling Options

    8.    Next Meeting
 

1.  Congress to Vote on Peru FTA in October  by Larry Weiss, Executive Director, Citizens Trade Campaign
Congress is expected to vote on the Peru Free Trade Agreement in the first two weeks of October. The Bush administration sees it as a momentum builder to pave the way for the free trade agreement with Colombia that it wants Congress to take up next.

The Peru deal is one of four pending FTAs that Congress will consider under Fast Track rules. Under an agreement between Ways and Means Democrats and the White House, all four have been amended to address some of the problems in the NAFTA/CAFTA model, but many other of those problems remain.

Citizens Trade Campaign opposes the agreement because of the major NAFTA/CAFTA model problems that remain in it. This Congress should not be handing the Bush administration a trade victory on a deal that is only partly fixed. Before moving ahead with more trade deals that will do harm, Congress should undertake a comprehensive review of the effects of the free trade agreements we have already entered into and address the ill effects they have created.

This is particularly true since the two major Peruvian labor federations have written to Congress to oppose the deal, arguing that the labor rights obligations required by the deal are less than ILO standards and that the Peruvian government is pressing fora new piece of small business legislation that would create an even weaker rights standard for the majority of workers in Peru.

OCFT has also made the decision to oppose the Peru Free Trade Agreement for the reasons outlined by CTC and due to the current dynamic of lack of enforcement (see the next article). We are busy re-contacting our Members of Congress to encourage them to continue to advocate for real Fair Trade policies by opposing the Peru deal. We have also mobilized a number of our faith and labor coalition members as well as fair trade advocates to encourage Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH 11th), member of the Ways and Means Committee and historically an opponent of NAFTA-style trade, to stand up to the pressure of her position.

Return to Top

2. Notes From the Chair:  Beware of a Little Progress by Maria Wilkinson, President of OCFT Board of Directors
Fair trade activists are aware of the considerable - and controversial - efforts made this spring by the Democratic House leadership in an attempt to improve trade agreements being negotiated by our government. Initiated under less than transparent circumstance, terms of “the deal” eventually were made public.

While there has been general acknowledgement that the deal agreed upon represented some progress in terms of including labor and environmental standards, many leading advocates of fair trade are leery of seeing any new agreements enacted under the current administration. Prominent among them is our Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown. Here is one good reason for their skepticism.

The Clinton administration’s trade agreement with Jordan was touted as a model among current FTAs. Members of Congress felt comfortable voting for the bill, partly because Jordan already had satisfactory labor laws in place. They did not anticipate that in a matter of a few years foreign workers, not covered under Jordanian law, would be brought into the country in droves to work in sweatshops.

Only a half yearafter George W. Bush took office, his newly appointed U.S. Trade Representative, Robert Zoellick, sent a letter to Jordan’s Ambassador to the United States, making it clear, in thinly veiled language, that the U.S. had no intention of enforcing rules of the FTA.   Zoellick wrote:” In particular, my Government would not expect or intend to apply the Agreement's dispute settlement enforcement procedures to secure its rights under the Agreement in a manner that results in blocking trade.” (USTR Robert Zoellick, Letter to Marwan Muasher, July 27, 2001.)

Apparel manufacturers have been importing citizens of Bangladesh and China to Jordan, confiscating their passports and forcing them to work under appalling conditions, often without pay. Their wares are sold to companies like Wal*Mart, Jones Apparel, Sears and others.  (Greenhouse, Steven and Barbaro, Michael, “An Ugly Side of Free Trade: Sweatshops in Jorden,” New York Times , May 3, 2006.)   True to their word, the Bush Administration has not enforced the U.S. trade agreement with Jordan.

The point: Advocating for negotiation of fair trade agreements is only half the battle. The most exemplary trade agreement is of little value if governments of the signatory nations do not enforce it.

That’s something for us to keep in mind when we have an opportunity to speak with presidential and Congressional candidates and incumbents.

Return to Top

3. The NAFTA Superhighway Myth
Have you heard about the proposed NAFTA Superhighway? Stories abound about the mythical road which is supposed to be as wide as four football fields and span from Mexico City through Kansas City to Toronto, Canada. Even Lou Dobbs has talked about it on CNN, referring to it as a “straightforward attack on national sovereignty.” And the Montana State Legislature voted overwhelmingly for a resolution opposing “the NAFTA Superhighway System.” Similar resolutions have been introduced in 18 other states. But as investigative reporter Christopher Hayes discovered, the Superhighway really is a myth. He has been repeatedly assured that the proposal is mythical. Even the North America SuperCorridor Organization (NASCO) has assured him that there is no such plan. NASCO, whose website touts the increase in jobs realized in the U.S. since the commencement of NAFTA, says there are absolutely no plans to build a Superhighway. After all, says their website, constructing a Superhighway isn’t necessary because Interstate 35 and its branches already exist. Nonetheless, NASCO removed their website map showing the route for a superhighway from Mexico to Canada after receiving many concerned and angry inquiries.

What IS real is the Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC). Texas Governor Rick Perry and Texas Department of Transportation commissioner Ric Williamson are advocating for a $185 billion, 4000-mile highway, rail and freight corridor. Plans for the “superhighway” call for it to be four football fields wide at some points, and will pave over a half million acres in Texas. Bipartisan grassroots opposition to the TTC plan arose when Texans learned that the superhighway will be a private toll road, a relatively foreign concept in Texas. The TTC plan became the top raging issue during the last gubernatorial election in 2004, when Perry, the incumbent and the only pro-TTC candidate, was re-elected with only 39% of the vote. Democratic and Republican state legislators then joined ranks to co-sponsor a TTC moratorium which passed both the House and Senate but was vetoed by Governor Perry. Reportedly, the Federal government sent a letter to Texas warning them not to enact a moratorium on the project. Now, according to reporter Christopher Hayes, Gov. Perry and his obstinate defense of TTC is being compared to Bush’s stubborn resistance to public opinion of the Iraq War. 

So there is no such thing as a NAFTA Superhighway. This is the emphatic statement of the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Market Access and Compliance, David Bohigian. (Christopher Hayes’ complete article can be seen here.)

In the meantime, there is a Trans-Texas Corridor. In the meantime, there is also a very expensive project underway to enlarge the deep-water port of Lazaro Cardenas located on the Pacific Coast of Mexico. (Teamsters president James Hoffa warns that this is part of a plan to “allow global conglomerates to capitalize by exploiting cheap labor and nonexistent work rules and avoiding potential security enhancements at U.S. ports.”)  In the meantime, Kansas City Southern Railroad Company is spending millions of dollars to purchase the rail routes that run from Port Lazaro Cardenas to Kansas City. In the meantime, earlier this month, the first Mexico-domiciled truck cleared the border, authorized by this Administration’s pilot program to transport cargo within the U.S. (The owner jokingly commented that the first trip would involve only one truck in case they were attacked by the Teamsters.) 

So what do YOU think? Is the NAFTA Superhighway really a myth?

Return to Top

4.  Slavery: The Dark Side of Globalization

USA Today recently did a review of a book, calling it “investigative, immersion reporting at its best.” The review, written by Russ Juskalian, featured John Bowe’s Nobodies: Modern American Slave Labor and the Dark Side of the New Global Economy. Juskalian called author Bowe a “master storyteller whose work is finely tuned and fearless.” 

Bowe investigates slavery conditions in the orchards of Florida, the industrial blocks of Tulsa, and on the island of Saipan where clothing is labeled “Made in America” without meeting the legal labor standards of America. He weaves the stories of murder, physical abuse and sex slavery with the concepts of power and corruption. He surmises, according to Juskalian, that “how we’ve executed this rush toward globalization may have created the very conditions necessary for slavery to gain a toehold in the modern world.” 

Writes Bowe: “Go out into this newly globalized world you’re profiting from, go visit the people being ‘lifted’ out of poverty, the workers who are making your products. Go live in their huts, eat their rice and plantains, squat on their floors, and listen to their babies cry. Sniff some glue and pray with them. Try to get justice from their police if someone hurts you. And then come back and let’s talk about freedom… If you can read this page, you are on top of the world and billions of people are beneath you. Your ignorance and your lack of a program will likely equal the squalor of your grandchildren’s existence.” 

Return to Top

Did You Know...

              ... that a Watergate-like scheme in Costa Rica was leaked to the media and may result in undermining the passage of CAFTA, the very objective that the scheme intended to prevent? The leaked memo was written by two high-level government officials with close ties to President Oscar Arias and advocated a program of threats and coercion to assure CAFTA’s passage, which will be voted on by the people on October 7. The memo outlined ways of frightening people about the “subversive” political ties of CAFTA opponents, and a program of threatening to cut off public funding to regions of the country where the CAFTA vote is defeated. CAFTA has been so divisive in Costa Rica that the government agreed earlier this year to allow the voters to decide whether or not it will be ratified. Now it is believed that the fouled government plan will re-energize CAFTA opponents and turn undecided Costa Ricans negative on it. (http://www.truthout.org:80/issues_06/092107LA.shtml)  ·  

Did You Know...

        ... that the Economic Policy Institute in August used the metaphor of a pie to describe the nature of our current economic recovery in “Who’s Grabbing All the New Pie?” EPI says that all the income growth realized from 2001 to 2005 (the last year data is available) in the U.S. accrued to the upper 5% and, in particular, the top 1% of households. EPI goes on to report that the bottom 90% of households “experienced a -4.2% decline in their market-based incomes, representing a loss of $1,293 per household on average. In real dollars, the top 1% of households gained $268 billion of total income since 2001, and the bottom 90% lost $272 billion. (http://www.epi.org:80/content.cfm/webfeatures_snapshots_20070801)

Did You Know...

             …. that if you spend $4.29 at the grocery for a pound of boneless ham, the farmer who raised, fed and cared for that pig receives only 53 cents from your purchase? If you spend $1.49 for a 2-pound head of lettuce, the farmer who planted the seed, watered the plant, and tended it until harvest, receives 33 cents from your purchase. If you spend $5.05 for an 18-oz. box of GM Wheaties Cereal, the farmer who planted, watered, tended and harvested the grain for that cereal receives 8 cents from your purchase. (Provided by NFU from 'Agricultural Prices', USDA/NASS). 

Did You Know...

        ... that a modest increase in the commodity price of cotton could literally feed millions in Africa? An OXFAM report explains how the cotton subsidies given to U.S. farmers provide an incentive for over-production of cotton which subsequently is dumped on the world market. In many parts of Africa, cotton production is the sole source of family income. “This data clearly exposes the hypocrisy of current policies, giving international aid with one hand and taking with the other through unfair trade rules,” says Marita Huties, acting head of Make Trade Fair Campaign of Oxfam International. Let’s resolve to give Africa fishing rights instead of fish! (http://www.oxfam.org/en/news/2007/pr070621_reform_of_us_cotton_subsidies).  (See our Farm Bill Update, next section.)

Return to Top   

6.  Farm Bill Update

“I believe nothing is as central to our well-being as food—who grows it and how. When produced with the interests of the eater in mind, food makes our bodies strong. When produced with the dream of passing the land on to the next generation, food strengthens local communities. And when produced with a long view of the planet’s health, food keeps our environment intact, even thriving.” (Willie Nelson, Farm Aid President, “Support a Better Farm Bill,” www.MotherEarthNews.com, June/July 2007.)

Earlier this week, the National Farmers Union (NFU) reported that the Senate is preparing to mark up their version of the Farm Bill, but the timing is not yet determined due to limited floor availability. The House passed its version before August vacations. 

Senate Ag Committee Chairman Tom Harkin is planning to increase funding of conservation and nutrition programs in the Senate version. These initiatives also received increased funding in the House version, but the House did not succeed in determining how to pay for these increases. The House was unwilling to decrease the controversial commodity payments. The Senate is attempting to address the commodity problems, but with varying degrees of success depending upon which agricultural advocacy group you listen to. 

The Environmental Defense blogs commended the House for supporting healthy snack initiatives for our school children in the Farm Bill, but criticized them for not providing enough funding to cover even 1% of our public schools. Sen. Harkin is vowing to give priority to these measures in the Senate version. Environmental Defense also criticized the House version for not protecting subsistence farmers in developing countries from certain ruin because of U.S. cotton subsidies that drive down global cotton prices. ED also claims that more than half of all farm spending flows to just 20 congressional districts in the U.S., and that Black and Latino farmers continue to be denied access to farm programs. (http://www.environmentaldefenseblogs.org/healthyfarms/).

This would be a great time to give your Senators a call and let them know that you understand how profoundly all Americans are impacted by the Farm Bill, and that you want them to provide a fair and equitable bill that strengthens our health and our communities, that cares for the planet and environment, and that is truly sustainable. 

 

Last month, I reported on the problem of toxic toys imported from China. I also reported on the problem of the U.S. exporting large amounts of potentially-toxic recyclables to China. An Ashland University professor conducted research which showed the connection between our trashed electronic gadgets and lead-tainted trinkets from China. (“U.S. Free Trade in Waste Poisons Our Children,” OCFT Aug. newsletter). 

The article generated a lot of interest. As a follow-up, I want to share with our readers and fair trade advocates some of the solutions that are being introduced to combat these serious problems.

There is a website that features USA-made items. It can be found at www.BuyAmerican.com and it features a wide range of items that can be purchased online. There is also a multinational company that produces toys in America. Two of their three U.S. plants are located in Ohio. The company is Step2 and retailers can be located, or purchases made online, at www.step2.com .  (Thanks to Allie Petonic for sharing this info!)

Marilyn Welker, Director of our coalition member organization, Simply Living, called to point out that we have a great place in Central Ohio which will take our outgrown computer components. “FreeGeek” is a group of volunteers that recycle old computers into usable computers for distribution to limited-resource populations. They also operate a thrift store of recycled computers and parts. Unusable electronic components are responsibly recycled. This wonderful, fair-minded, sustainable service is based upon a program founded in Portland, Oregon. If you live in Central Ohio, please remember FreeGeek when discarding your old computer equipment, and please support them in any way you can. Check them out at www.FreeGeekColumbus.org

For other fair trade shopping, don’t forget Ten Thousand Villages (dba Global Gallery in Central Ohio). Ten Thousand Villages allows consumers to purchase quality gifts and household items directly from over 100 artisans from 30 different countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. By functioning as a non-profit organization, Ten Thousand Villages enables artisans from around the world to receive a fair wage for their hand-crafted creations. There are Ten Thousand Villages stores all around Ohio and you can locate the one nearest you by visiting www.TenThousandVillages.com .

Do you know about other Fair Trade Stores or Responsible Recycling efforts in your part of Ohio? If so, please drop me a line. OCFT will build a repository of information for our Ohio readers.  

 

Our next OCFT Board meeting will be Monday, October 22nd, at 12:30 p.m. (for 1 hour) at the AFL-CIO Building at 395 E. Broad St., downtown Columbus.  Our meetings are open to everyone. Feel free to bring your lunch! 

 
                        To be added to or removed from the OCFT newsletter list, contact me at:
                                khansen@695online.com   or    OHFairTrade@yahoo.com
                                                    Karen Hansen, State Coordinator
                                                    P.O. Box 06595
                                                    Columbus, OH  43205
                                                    (614) 280-3631Text Box: Want to be added to or removed from the OCFT mail list?
Just email Karen at khansen@695online.com or OHFairTrade@yahoo.com .
Karen Hansen, State Coordinator
(614) 280-3631
Ohio Conference on Fair Trade
PO Box 06595
Columbus, OH  43206