African Free Trade Moves

A bill to set up "free trade" with sub-Saharan African nations who agree to neoliberal economic reforms passed the U.S. House of Representatives March 11 on a vote of 233 to 186. HR 1432, titled the "Africa Growth and Opportunity Act," was rushed to a floor vote a week after the bill's mark-up in the Ways and Means Committee, before opponents were able to get the word out about the bill's implications. It goes on to the Senate.

The bill would promote privatization of industry and expansion of production through joint ventures with U.S. corporations for exports to the United States. African countries that balk at the terms would become ineligible for most forms of U.S. aid.

U.S. textile workers fear that the bill will allow textile manufacturers to move production to Africa. Of 1.3 million Americans still employed in this sector, 40 percent are people of color and 80 percent are women.

Among opponents were UNITE, the union representing U.S. apparel and textile workers, Public Citizen, other members of the Citizens Trade Campaign and Randall Robinson of TransAfrica.

Contact your member of Congress at 202-224-3121 or 1-800-504-0031.

WTO Rules Against Turtles

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has ruled against provisions of the U.S. Endangered Species Act protecting endangered sea turtles, Global Trade Watch reported. If upheld, the WTO ruling would force the United States to change the law or face economic sanctions.

U.S. law requires that shrimp sold in the United States must be caught using turtle excluder devices that allow sea turtles to escape the deadly nets used by shrimp fishers. Failure to use turtle excluder devices kill as many as 150,000 turtles each year.

Mike Dolan of Global Trade Watch said the U.S. Trade Representative refuses to release the WTO ruling. The Trade Representative maintains that WTO rules require rulings remain confidential.

"Such secrecy protects nothing but the WTO itself from public criticism," Dolan said.

To demand release of the WTO ruling against sea turtles, he all U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky at 202-395-6890. If [Trade Representative] Barshefsky tells you she can't release WTO rulings against U.S. laws, go ahead and tell her: In that case, the U.S. should withdraw from WTO!" Dolan said.

For more information contact the Sea Turtle Restoration Project, 415-488-0370; email seaturtles@earthisland.org; or Public Citizen, 202-546-4996; e-mail public_citizen@citizen.org.

Senate Extends
Ethanol Tax Break

Ethanol tax incentives survived a 71-26 vote in the U.S. Senate, which encouraged supporters of a 7-year extension of the program.

Some have criticized the ethanol tax breaks, which benefits agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland as well as corn growers, but NFU President Leland Swenson said, "National Farmers Union has championed the tax-incentive program for ethanol blenders because it is good for rural economies, it has been proven to reduce air pollution and it reduces U.S. dependence on foreign oil."

Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Carol Moseley-Braun, D-Ill., sponsored the ethanol extension in the Senate version of the highway bill.

"This is the strongest showing of support for the ethanol program we have seen in the Senate, which is evidence that public awareness of and support for the program has continued to grow," said NFU Legislative Representative Lynne McBride. "Data show that ethanol use grew by 24 percent last year alone."

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