This is another in a series of ongoing posts following the announcement of a secret free trade deal on May 10, 2007 between a handful of senior Democrats and the Bush administration.
Six days after the press conference announcing a secret free trade deal between Democratic congressional leaders and the Bush White House, a full-scale revolt appears to be brewing on Capitol Hill. Rank-and-file Democratic lawmakers have demanded an immediate debate about the deal, and Democratic leaders have responded by rejecting such a request. A top Democratic senator says K Street is receiving a "wink and nod" from the White House that the final legislative language - which has not been made public - will allow the Bush administration to avoid enforcing any of the much-touted standards in the deal. GOP leaders, meanwhile, are signaling that the deal will not be incorporated into the core text of trade agreements at all. And, of course, almost every news outlet has refused to report that top K Street lobbyists have said they have received "assurances" that the deal's provisions on labor and the environment will be unenforceable. Here's today's full news report.
EMANUEL NIXES DEMS' DEMAND FOR OPEN DEBATE ON THE SECRET DEAL: As first reported on this website yesterday, Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) nixed a bid by rank-and-file Democratic lawmakers to hold a Democratic Caucus meeting to discuss the secret trade deal. The request, first made by lawmakers in a letter to Emanuel last week, was initially "rebuffed," then accepted, and then at the last minute, Emanuel pulled the plug. Emanuel was one of the key players in pushing NAFTA through Congress as an aide to President Clinton in the early 1990s. Responding to the reporting of this story, a spokeswoman for Emanuel's office this morning emailed me to say that the cancellation of the trade debate occurred because of "time constraints" and that Emanuel has now promised the caucus "we would continue with our plan to have a trade-focused caucus meeting soon." He did not set a date certain for that meeting.
GOP AND WHITE HOUSE SAY TRADE DEALS WILL NOT BE RE-WRITTEN AS PROMISED: Yesterday afternoon, industry newsletter Inside U.S. Trade reported that House Ways and Means Ranking Member Jim McCrery (R-LA) "said it is his preference and that of U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab that the new obligations for free trade agreements announced last week not lead to a reopening of the Peru free trade agreement." This follow's McCrery's claim yesterday that the secret deal can be completed "in a way that does not require Peru's political system to revisit the deal all over again." In laymans terms, the enforceability of the promised labor and environmental provisions hinge on the Peru and Panama free trade agreements being reopened so that their texts can be modified. As NAFTA has shown, so-called "side agreements" that are not written into the text of the actual trade texts have proven entirely unenforceable because they are not part of the core agreement. If the Peru and Panama deals are not, in fact, going to be reopened and renegotiated, then the highly touted promises of adding enforceable labor and environmental provisions to the core texts of trade agreements appear to be in question. This may explain why the Bush-connected head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has told reporters he has received "assurances that the labor provisions [in the deal] cannot be read to require compliance."
KOREAN GOVERNMENT SAYS IT WILL REFUSE TO RENEGOTIATE: The Korea Herald reports that "South Korean negotiators are not going to give in to a possible request by U.S. trade negotiators for renegotiations of their recently concluded bilateral free trade agreement." The secret deal would supposedly require South Korea to add labor and environmental provisions to a previously negotiated - but not yet ratified - trade agreement with the United States. But "the Korean government firmly says renegotiations are out of the question." An official with the Korea-U.S. FTA Negotiation Division at the Korea Trade Ministray said, "The Korean government is adamant about having no renegotiations." Korea currently abides by just one of the seven ILO core provisions. Will the U.S. back down in the face of such bullying?
BROWN - K STREET IS GETTING 'WINK AND NOD' FROM WHITE HOUSE: In an exclusive interview with CNN's Lou Dobbs on Tuesday, Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) said he is most concerned with the secret deal's lack of teeth, saying "I see no sign yet that [the Bush administration] wants to enforce" the labor and environmental standards supposedly included in the deal. Responding to comments by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Manufacturers who have said the stasndards will be unenforceable, Broown said "they're kind of getting a wink and a nod" from the White House that the standards "are not going to be enforced." Brown is the author of the book "The Myths of Free Trade" and ran his successful Senate campaign against lobbyist-written trade deals. He is considered one of Congress's top leaders on trade, yet was kept in the dark about the details of the deal.
WSJ - FAIR TRADERS "LOST" IN THE DEAL: The conservative editorial board of the Wall Street Journal applauded the secret deal, saying it represents a major defeat for the progressive movement. Fair traders ""wanted the U.S. to abide by the core principles of the International Labor Organization" and "wanted third parties -- such as the AFL-CIO -- to be able to file trade complaints" but "they lost on both counts." The deal asks the White House "to abide only by...general aspirations about curtailing forced labor and the like, rather than specific legal obligations." International tribunals, which have the power to overturn U.S. local/state/federal environmental and consumer protection laws when corporations file suits, will "have no power to alter U.S. law" when similar complaints are brought up on labor concerns.
MSNBC - OBAMA "SOUNDS WARY OF THE DEAL": MSNBC reports that in public appearances this week on the presidential campaign trail, Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) "sounded wary of this deal." He said, "We haven't actually seen the details". I want to wait and see what exactly the language is and make sure the union provisions are strong and enforceable."
MACHINISTS OPPOSE DEAL, SLAM SECRECY: In a press release, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) announced "it will vigorously oppose any trade deal that fails to fully incorporate internationally recognized labor standards as defined by the International Labor Organization." IAM President Tom Buffenbarger said, The actual text of the agreement has not yet been made available and widely varying reports of its contents raise serious and troubling questions." IAM said it "is highly suspicious that the trade deal is seriously deficient" not only because of its potentially unenforceable standards, but because of other "procurement and investment issues." The Politico reports that "several unions are already mobilizing to defeat" the deal.CITY COUNCIL RESOLUTION SIGNALS CROSS-OVER OPPOSITION TO CURRENT TRADE POLICIES: Public Citizen reports that the Hermiston, Oregon City Council unanimously passed a Resolution to Retain Local Jobs last night, in a vote of 7-0. The resolution calls on Congress to oppose international trade agreements that facilitate to the offshoring of Oregon jobs and to replace Fast Track trade promotion authority with democratic and inclusive trade policymaking procedures. Area residents, many of whom had lost jobs when the Simplot processing plant moved abroad under the North American Free Trade Agreement, testified in support of the resolution at last night's City Council meeting. Loaded Orygun notes that "Hermiston is nestled in Umatilla County, which is a very RED area of Oregon" represented by archconservative Rep. Greg Walden (R) - "a willing participant in voting yes for these free trade agreements." Could 2008 be another year where complicity in our current trade policy proves to be a critical election issue?
Looks like the Democratic hierarchy is selling us down the river doesn't it?
Tags: Politics, Secret Trade Deal