On May 10 President Bush sent a message to Congress demanding "fast track" action on a pending free trade agreement, notwithstanding the present NAFTA deal covering Canada, USA and Mexico to the entire Western Hemisphere. But that is only the starter. He also demands "fast track" treatment for the World Trade Agreement to be negotiated next July.
Reuters, the European press agency, quotes Bush: "We have no time to waste in reasserting America's leadership in trade. We can no longer afford to sit still while our trade partners [read "competitors"] move ahead without us." Here we have the arrogant voice of transnational capital.
On May 12, the voice of the American people responded. The newly formed people's coalition, the Citizen's Trade Campaign (CTC), an outgrowth of the successful popular protest against the WTO free trade proposal in Seattle last year, announced its opposition to Bush's demands. CTC is described by Reuters as the "broad-based coalition of environmental, labor, family farm, consumer and religious organizations."
The CTC statement enlarges on the theme that the World Trade Organization (WTO) in its concern for the transnational corporate bottom lines is ignoring people's concerns:
"The real issue in the debate over US trade policy is what rules should govern the world economy, and whose interests should they serve. We propose the development of rules that benefit the many and not the few."
CTC then outlined the principles any world trade agreement must follow:
* Environmental, labor, health and other public interest standards must not be undermined.
* Countries must be allowed to give priority to sustaining family farms and achieving global food security.
* New rules (by the WTO) requires more democracy ... and Fast Track under any name is therefore unacceptable.
* WTO agreements must prohibit countries from weakening, eliminating or failing to enforce domestic labor , environmental or other public interest standards to attract investment.
* WTO trade agreements must not directly encourage trade that damages the environment or leads to the sustainable depletion of resources.
Members of the CTC include the United Steel Workers of America, Friends of the Earth, the National Farm Family Coalition, the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, Public Citizen, the international Brotherhood of Teamsters, UNITE, and the United Auto Workers, among others.
Lem Harris is a longtime writer on agricultural issues. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.