Planet Not For Sale

Measuring Success: Local Food Systems and the Need for New Indicators

Language:  English IATP author(s):  IATP File:  indicators-web.pdf In agriculture, policymakers, analysts and researchers often use a set of indicators to assess whether a farming system, or new technology, is succeeding. The most common indicators focus on increasing “yield,” often of a singular crop or animal unit, within large-scale production systems. The use of indicators focused almost exclusively on production helps to shape scientific research and public policy. But just as weight alone is not a good measure of human health, a single-minded focus on production is an inadequate measure of the health of a farming system. So long as yields are high, this narrow focus supports the illusion that our agricultural system is meeting the nutrition, health, environmental...

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Categories: Planet Not For Sale

Chamber Resorts to Cartoonish Analogies to Defend Corporations’ ‘Right’ to Attack Policies

Eyes on Trade - 30 May, 2014 - 17:21

What do you do when you lose an argument on the basis of, you know, facts?  

You use fantastical analogies to substantiate your battered claims.  At least, that appears to be the game plan of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. 

In a blog post yesterday, the corporate conglomerate tried once again to defend a system that empowers foreign corporations to bypass our courts, go before three private lawyers unaccountable to any electorate, and demand that the U.S. Treasury hand over our tax dollars for policies ranging from Wall Street reforms to climate change initiatives.  “Trade” deals currently under negotiation, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA), would vastly expand this extraordinary “investor-state” system. 

How did the Chamber address widespread concerns over the proposed empowerment of tens of thousands of foreign corporations to have a go at our domestic laws?  By comparing them to childhood fears of a monster in the closet. 

(See, there are no monsters in your closet.  By the rule of analogies, there is therefore no problem with enabling corporations to more easily attack our health and environmental protections.  Got it?)  

The Chamber’s post concludes with this kicker: “The next time someone comes peddling fear of ISDS [investor-state dispute settlement], ask this simple question: ‘Can you cite an ISDS case where the investor won but didn’t deserve compensation?’ Expect to hear silence in return.” 

“Silence” is a creative way to characterize academics’ and advocates’ years of detailed analysis of case after case in which corporations have extracted taxpayer compensation for public interest policies.  On the basis of such cases, voices ranging from former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg to the National Council of State Legislatures to the CATO Institute to thousands of concerned citizens have warned of the threats that expansion of the extreme investor-state regime via the TPP and TAFTA would pose to public health, a clean environment, rule of law, and taxpayers’ wallets.  (Oh, and the nation’s largest labor, environmental, health, privacy, Internet freedom, financial, development, family farmer, faith and consumer groups have also spotlighted the record of investor-state damage.)  Chamber’s claim of “silence” is deaf to these warnings from across the political spectrum.

To answer Chamber’s question –- whether we can cite an “investor-state” case where a three-person tribunal unjustly ordered a government to pay a foreign corporation for a policy enacted in the public’s interest –- indeed, we can.  The main difficulty is choosing from the panoply of available cases

What about the case where a tribunal ordered Canadian taxpayers to pay millions to a waste treatment corporation for preventing the firm from exporting to Ohio a hazardous waste that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has found to be harmful to humans and toxic to the environment?

Or the one where an investor-state tribunal ordered Mexico to pay a corporation more than $16 million for not allowing the firm to build a toxic waste facility until it cleaned up existing toxic waste problems?

Or take the case that Occidental Petroleum won against Ecuador in 2012. The tribunal in that case acknowledged that the oil corporation had broken an Ecuadorian law governing oil exploration in the Amazon.  But then the tribunal concocted a new governmental obligation to Occidental, decided the government had violated this unwritten obligation despite adhering to Ecuadorian law, and ordered Ecuador’s taxpayers to hand $2.3 billion to the oil company.  One of the three lawyers in the tribunal dissented, describing the decision as “egregious.”  That didn’t remove the penalty imposed on Ecuador by her two colleagues. 

The Chamber tries to downplay the amounts that taxpayers have to shell out to foreign firms when governments lose investor-state cases, arguing that the corporations often get “a fraction” of what they ask for.  But when corporations ask for billions, a “fraction” is no chump change.  In the Occidental case, the $2.3 billion penalty imposed on Ecuador’s taxpayers is equivalent to the amount the government spends on health care each year for half the population. 

The Chamber’s post also tried to minimize the investor-state system’s costly legacy by wrongly stating that “governments comfortably win in the vast majority of [investor-state] cases.”  The U.N. Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) reports that in 57 percent of all public, concluded investor-state cases, the government has either lost the case to the investor or has been pushed to settle with the investor, typically resulting in the extraction of millions of taxpayer dollars and/or the overturning of the policy that the corporation challenged.  In recent cases, governments have been outright losing most of the time.  In seven out of eight public decisions handed down by investor-state tribunals last year, the government lost.  That’s hardly a “comfortable” record.

And those are only the cases that have already been decided.  Investor-state claims have surged in recent years, resulting in pending cases that target everything from Australia’s anti-smoking policies to Germany’s decision to phase out nuclear power after the Fukushima nuclear disaster.  While the Chamber tries to claim that “relatively few” cases have been launched in the “nearly half a century” of the investor-state regime, that argument requires closing one’s eyes to the recent wave of cases.  While no more than 15 cases were launched in any given year in the first four decades of the “nearly half a century” of investor-state treaties, more than 50 cases have been launched in each of the last three years.  Pending cases include:

  • Chevron v. Ecuador: in response to Chevron’s attempt to evade a $9.5 billion domestic ruling for Amazon pollution, an investor-state tribunal has directed Ecuador’s government to violate its Constitution, has cast aside two decades of court rulings, and has declared that rights granted to Ecuadorians no longer exist.
  • Eli Lilly v. Canada: a U.S. pharmaceutical corporation has challenged Canada’s legal standard for patents and pushed for greater monopoly patent protections, which increase the cost of medicines for consumers and governments. 
  • Renco v. Peru: a U.S. corporation has tried to evade its contractual commitment to clean up its metal smelter contamination in one of the world’s most polluted towns.

The flood of recent investor-state attacks on domestic safeguards owes largely to the fact that tribunals are interpreting ever more broadly the vague investor-state “rights” granted to foreign corporations.  Contrary to the Chamber’s assertions, these rights extend beyond those afforded to domestic firms.  Under U.S. law, a coal corporation, for example, could not invoke a right to government compensation for new carbon emissions controls –- such as those the administration plans to roll out on Monday –- on the basis that the new policy frustrated the firm’s “expectations.”  But investor-state tribunals have repeatedly decided that foreign firms, under investor-state pacts, indeed enjoy a “right” to a static regulatory framework that does not thwart their expectations.  

And of course, if a U.S. firm takes issue with a new U.S. environmental or financial or health regulation, the corporation cannot skirt the entire U.S. domestic legal system and take its case to a private three-person extrajudicial tribunal empowered to order the U.S. Treasury to compensate the firm, with limited option for appeal.  But that is precisely the privilege granted to foreign corporations under the investor-state system’s extraordinary terms. 

Comparing this system to fictitious beasts inhabiting one’s closet will not make it go away.  To highlight the dangers posed by this regime and its proposed expansion via the TPP and TAFTA, we need not resort to far-fetched analogies.  The damage already wrought will suffice. 

Categories: Planet Not For Sale

WTO Final Ruling: European Ban on Products from Inhumane Seal Harvest Violates WTO Rules

Eyes on Trade - 22 May, 2014 - 16:58

Statement of Lori Wallach, Director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch

The WTO today added fuzzy white baby seals clubbed to death on bloody ice flows to dolphins and sea turtles as animals that the WTO has declared cannot be protected by domestic laws because they  violate “trade” rules, which will just fuel public and policymaker skepticism about these so-called trade deals. 

As a technical matter, today’s ruling confirms the uselessness of the WTO exceptions, allegedly designed to protect countries’ domestic public interest laws, that are now being touted as the way to safeguard environmental, health and safety policies in proposed pacts such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). This is the 39th time out of 40 attempted uses that the exception has been rejected by WTO tribunals when raised to safeguard a domestic public interest law.

BACKGROUND: In this final ruling, the WTO Appellate Body acknowledged that the European Union’s ban on the importation and sale of seal products resulted from concerns about “inhumane” hunts with “inherent animal welfare risks,” but concluded the EU failed to satisfy the litany of conditions required to defend public interest policies under the WTO’s “general exception” provisions. Specifically, the Appellate Body ruled against use of the WTO exception for policies “necessary” to protect public morals. Only one out of 40 government attempts to use the the WTO General Exceptionse, found in Article XX of the WTO’s General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and Article XIV of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), has ever succeeded.

In its ruling today, the Appellate Body also rebuffed arguments made by the U.S. government as a third party observer to the case demanding that the WTO evaluate whether policies that appear to have a discriminatory effect stem from a “legitimate regulatory distinction.” The Appellate Body ruled against this U.S. government position, concluding that WTO panels do not need to consider under GATT whether a challenged domestic policy stems from a legitimate policy objective.

Today’s ruling follows a string of WTO rulings against popular U.S. environmental and consumer policies. In May 2012, for example, the WTO ruled against voluntary “dolphin-safe” tuna labels that, by allowing consumers to choose to buy tuna caught without dolphin-killing fishing practices, have helped to dramatically reduce dolphin deaths. Today’s decision will again spur public ire over WTO rules that extend beyond “trade” to target domestic environmental and consumer safeguards.

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On Eve of ‘Check In’ Ministerial, Top 10 Signs That Obama Administration Should Call It Quits on TPP Negotiations

Eyes on Trade - 20 May, 2014 - 12:07

Twenty-one Multilateral TPP Meetings Since ‘Final’ August 2013 Brunei Negotiating Round, All Without Even a Facade of Stakeholder Input Process 

The office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) worked to spin down expectations for a May 19-20 ministerial-level meeting on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) even before last week’s TPP chief negotiators meeting in Vietnam that failed to resolve deadlocks on the myriad outstanding TPP issues.

While 600 official U.S. trade advisors, mainly comprised of corporate representatives, have continued to obtain information and give input on TPP negotiations, the last opportunity for official “stakeholder” input into the TPP took place August 24–31, 2013, during the 19th round of negotiations in Brunei. However, heads of state, negotiators and ministers have continued to meet in an attempt to finalize a TPP. Without even the pretense of providing opportunities for civil society to engage in the process, in the past nine months, TPP countries have had at least one heads-of-state summit, two ministerials, four meetings of chief negotiators, 14 so-called “intersessionals,” four Obama bilateral heads of state meetings and endless U.S.-Japan bilateral negotiations and ministerials. And these are only the meetings that have been reported.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government continues to use large sums of taxpayer money to push negotiations to obtain a TPP agenda favored by corporate interests that remains stalled in the face of growing opposition in the United States and throughout TPP countries. The U.S. government was the official host of the Vietnam meeting this week and will be the official host of the upcoming ministerial meeting in Singapore.

Following are the top 10 indicators of why the USTR has decided to tamp down expectations once again for a negotiation that has supposedly been in an “end game” since last year:

1)     U.S. and Japanese officials have offered conflicting versions of the outcomes of their bilateral “breakthrough”-but-not-a-deal non-deal from Obama’s Japan visit when briefing their TPP colleagues. Indeed, Japan was among the countries arguing that the state of U.S.-Japan market access negotiations was not sufficiently advanced to merit another TPP ministerial meeting.

2)     An LDP bloc in Japan’s Diet adopted another resolution last week, while TPP chief negotiators met in Vietnam, reiterating the ruling party’s requirement that the TPP must protect a list of “sacred” agricultural commodities. The Japanese parliamentary action by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s own political party, making clear it will not support a TPP that zeroes out agricultural tariffs, is seen as a direct response to U.S. congressional and agribusiness statements that only a TPP that does so is politically acceptable.

3)     Vietnam’s former trade minister, who is a current senior advisor on TPP negotiations, recently declared that Vietnam would not accept a TPP requirement that workers be allowed to establish independent labor unions.Former MinisterTruong Dinh Tuyen said Vietnam instead would accept a compromise that devolved some power to local unions.

4)     U.S. trade officials announced that Japan would advance market access talks with other TPP nations at the Vietnam lead negotiators meeting and that this was a sign of a new stage in negotiations – except that is not what Japan intended or did. Other countries are unlikely to even consider high-stakes tradeoffs relating to U.S. demands that could raise drug prices, extend the scope of investor-state dispute liability, limit financial regulation, discipline state-owned enterprises, and enforce labor and environmental standards without knowing what prospective market access opportunities might be forthcoming.

5)     On May 1, the Sultan of Brunei implemented a new Sharia-law-based penal code that calls for jail terms for the wearing of immodest clothing, pregnancies outside marriage and abortion, with death by stoning for adulterers, gays and lesbians to be phased in later. The move prompted new U.S. constituencies to join the anti-TPP effort.

6)     The USTR’s concern that the optics of not having a TPP ministerial when all of the countries’ trade ministers are together for a pre-scheduled APEC meeting overcomes opposition by other TPP nations to meeting when there is nothing ready for ministers to decide. Thus, the announcement of a “check-in” ministerial, which ministers from at least three TPP nations do not plan to attend.

7)     Japanese officials or press are creating a series of red herring stories. Reports of near-deals on intellectual property, new U.S. proposals and more do not relate to what happened on the ground in Vietnam. Indeed, the Japanese press has run a series of follow-up stories speculating about who is generating the misdirects and why. There is no indication that key areas of controversy that existed in previous ministerials in the areas of intellectual property, investment, environment, labor, state-owned enterprises and more are much closer to resolution, even after the expense of the past months of negotiations. The U.S. ambassador to Malaysia recently expressed hope that the deal might be concluded by 2017.

8)     The USTR continues to avoid raising currency issues at chiefs or ministerial levels, even though it is increasingly clear that a TPP without enforceable currency rules is dead on arrival in the U.S. Congress. If negotiations were nearing a final deal, this issue would have to be raised; Congress’ outspoken position has made clear to the other TPP nations that either this issue will be raised in negotiations or it will be raised later as an additional demand after ‘final’ concessions have been made, as was seen in the Korea Free Trade Agreement renegotiation four years after signing.

9)     The prospect of passage of any form of trade authority in 2014 is dimming. Indeed, some congressional Fast Track proponents are already talking about the prospect that President Barack Obama may never obtain trade authority, so they are setting their sights on 2017.As the other TPP countries recognize the lack of congressional support for Fast Track and TPP, their willingness to make U.S.-negotiator-demanded concessions on issues with high political costs at home also dims.

10)  In April, Chile’s Trade Ministry under recently elected President Michelle Bachelet confirmed that it is conducting a comprehensive review of the scope of the TPP and what its impact could be for Chile, noting that it is initiating a process of transparency and openness in the negotiations to include civil society input into their review. The website states, “We consider that there are many issues that are still open, the negotiation still has a ways to go.”

For more information about the TPP, please visit http://citizen.org/tpp

Categories: Planet Not For Sale

10 reasons TTIP is bad for good food and farming

Language:  English IATP author(s):  Shefali Sharma File:  2014_05_16_10ReasonsTTIP_SS.pdf The United States and the European Union have launched negotiations on a new Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP): a free trade agreement that aims to “harmonize” standards and regulations in both regions to expand corporate profits. However, the regulations in question are critical to creating more sustainable, healthy food systems in Europe and in the United States. In May 2013, over 20 agribusiness industry groups—particularly from the meat, dairy and grain industries—submitted comments to the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) office outlining their clear interests in TTIP. Agribusiness on both sides is pushing to rollback regulations that hinder their...

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Second Anniversary of Colombia Pact Spotlights Administration's Failed Promise of Labor Rights Improvements, Now Recycled to Defend TPP Negotiations with Vietnam amid Worker Riots

Eyes on Trade - 15 May, 2014 - 15:34

Today, as foreign-owned factories in Vietnam lie smoldering after protesting Vietnamese workers burnt them to the ground, Obama administration officials are in Vietnam negotiating a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) pact that would place U.S. workers in direct competition with their Vietnamese counterparts. 

While politics provided the spark for Vietnam’s recent worker riots, the country’s notorious working conditions fanned the flames.  According to the U.S. government, the International Labour Organization, and workers' rights groups, those conditions include “children working nine to 12 hours per day for low pay in hazardous working conditions,” forced labor, discrimination against pregnant women, blocked fire exits, prohibition of independent unions, and minimum wages dwarfed by those paid in China.

Members of Congress, U.S. labor unions and human rights groups have made clear that the U.S. government should not be contemplating a pact with a country where workers’ rights are systematically violated. 

That same argument motivated widespread opposition to the U.S.- Colombia “free trade” agreement (FTA), which took effect two years ago today. 

The Colombia pact was implemented despite warnings from Congress and labor groups that U.S. workers should not be pitted against workers in a country consistently listed as the world’s most dangerous place to be a unionist.  The Obama administration helped push the FTA through the U.S. Congress over record Democratic opposition with promises that the gross workers’ rights violations in Colombia would wane under the FTA.  The administration declared that a Labor Action Plan (LAP) signed with Colombia in 2011 as a fig leaf for the FTA would “lead to greatly enhanced labor rights in Colombia.”

After two years of FTA implementation, that promise rings hollow as Colombia’s unionists face persistent murders, death threats, and repression. 

Now, in response to growing opposition to the notion of a TPP pact with Vietnam, the Obama administration is conjuring up the same failed promise, asserting that working conditions in Vietnam will improve under the pact. 

Members of Congress are not likely to buy the recycled pitch, as the two-year anniversary of the Colombia FTA spotlights the harrowing violence still faced by Colombia’s union workers. Colombia’s National Union School, recognized by the LAP as an authoritative source of monitoring data, reports that:

  • In the three years since the LAP was unveiled, 73 Colombian unionists have been murdered.  There were four more unionist murders in 2013 than in 2012.
  • Colombia’s union workers have endured 31 murder attempts and 953 death threats since the LAP was announced.  These crimes have not resulted in any captures, trials, or convictions.
  • More than 3,000 unionists have been murdered in Colombia since 1977. The overall impunity rate for these murders is 87%.
  • Since 1977, Colombian unionists have received 6,262 recorded death threats.  Only 4 of these threats have been punished, meaning that impunity for anti-union death threats stands at 99.9%.

Undeterred by the ongoing repression of Colombian workers, U.S. trade negotiators are in Vietnam at this very moment in attempt to negotiate via the TPP an expansion of the FTA model to Vietnam, despite the country’s widespread labor abuses.  Under the TPP, U.S. workers would be placed into direct competition with Vietnamese workers facing these on-the-ground realities:

  • Child labor:  According to the Vietnam government’s own estimates, more than 25,000 Vietnamese children work in hazardous conditions.  The U.S. State Department reports that Vietnam government inspectors have found “children working nine to 12 hours per day for low pay in hazardous working conditions (including poor lighting, dusty environments, and the operation of heavy machinery)…”
  • Forced labor:  Individuals detained, but not convicted, for drug offenses are required to work for little to no pay in government detention centers as part of their “treatment,” according Human Rights Watch and the State Department.  Vietnam is one of just four countries in the world cited by the U.S. Department of Labor for using both forced labor and child labor in apparel production.
  • Low wages:  Vietnam’s average minimum wage is 52 cents per hour.  That’s a fraction of minimum wages even in China.  And it’s one-fourteenth of the earnings of U.S. minimum wage workers who would be pitted against their Vietnamese counterparts. 
  • Unsafe working conditions:  The International Labour Organization reports that even after inspecting Vietnamese garment factories on three occasions for fire hazards, 41% of the inspected factories still had inaccessible or blocked fire exits. 
  • Violations of women’s rights:  Vietnamese factories have employed several discriminatory methods to try to avoid the legal obligation to provide paid maternity leave to pregnant workers. Last year the Vietnamese press revealed that one factory required female workers to sign a contract vowing not to get pregnant for their first three years of employment. 
  • Union repression:  Vietnam bans independent unions.  Workers wishing to organize for their rights must affiliate their union with the Vietnam General Confederation of Labor, a self-described “member of the political system under the leadership of the Communist Party of Vietnam.”  The Worker Rights Consortium reports that Vietnamese workers attempting to form independent unions have been “subjected to sustained campaigns of prosecution and imprisonment.” 

In the face of such entrenched labor abuses, it is incredible that the administration is trotting out the same message used for the Colombia FTA: “Don’t worry –- workers’ conditions will improve once the FTA is in place.”  After two years of the Colombia deal, Colombia’s workers sadly beg to differ.  

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Release of Two Years of Korea FTA Data Throws More Cold Water on Obama TPP and Fast Track Efforts After Asia Trip Fails to Change Dynamic

Eyes on Trade - 9 May, 2014 - 14:53

U.S. Exports to Korea Down 5 Percent, Imports from Korea Up and Trade Deficit With Korea Swells 50 Percent, Contradicting Obama Claims of U.S. Export and Job Growth

The just-released official  U.S. government trade data covering the first two years of the U.S.-Korea “free trade” agreement (FTA) further chills the prospects for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Fast Track trade authority. Today’s release of the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) data likely will intensify congressional antipathy toward Fast Track and concerns about the TPP. The USITC data, corrected to remove re-exports not produced in the United States, show falling U.S. exports to Korea and a ballooning U.S. trade deficit under the Korea FTA, which served as the U.S. template for the TPP.

U.S. goods exports to Korea have dropped 5 percent  under the Korea FTA’s first two years, compared to the two years before FTA implementation, in contrast to the Obama administration’s promise that the Korea FTA would mean “more exports, more jobs” and recent claims that the agreement has shown “strong results.” Imports into the United States from Korea have climbed 8 percent under the FTA (an increase of $4.7 billion per year).

From the year before the FTA took effect to its second year of implementation, the U.S. goods trade deficit with Korea swelled 50 percent (a $7.6 billion increase). In 23 out of 24 months since the Korea FTA took effect, the U.S. goods trade deficit with Korea has exceeded the average monthly level seen in the two years before the deal. The trade deficit increase under the FTA indicates the loss of more than 50,000 U.S. jobs, according the trade-jobs ratio that the Obama administration used to project gains from the deal. 

“The fact that the Korea deal has resulted in a worse trade deficit and more lost jobs has had a very chilling effect on public and congressional support for the TPP and Fast Track, and the Obama administration’s dishonest claims that the pact has expanded exports has only hardened that opposition,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. “While most Democrats and a sizeable bloc of Republicans in Congress have already voiced opposition to Fast Tracking the TPP, both the negative outcomes of the Korea FTA and the administration’s dishonest claim that the pact is a success are adding more converts daily.” 

Rather than acknowledge that the Korea pact has resulted in declining U.S. exports and a larger trade deficit, the administration’s Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has relied on data omissions and distortions in press materials that attempt to paint failure as success. For a full response to the USTR’s litany of data errors, visit http://www.citizen.org/documents/Korea-FTA-USTR-data-debunk.pdf

The USTR’s biggest distortion is counting foreign-made products that are simply shipped through the United States en route to Korea as “U.S. exports” to Korea. Rather than use the official U.S. government trade data provided by the USITC that counts only U.S.-made exports, USTR cites data that treat the 14 percent rise in foreign-made exports to Korea under the FTA as a boost to U.S. exports, artificially diminishing the dramatic U.S. export downfall.

The USTR relies on a series of other data errors in attempt to hide the dismal Korea FTA record, including:

  • Failing to account for inflation: By treating a rise in prices as a rise in exports, the USTR mistakenly claims that the observed decrease in U.S. exports to Korea in manufactured goods under the FTA is an increase.
  • Ignoring aggregate losses to cherry-pick tiny winning sectors: TheUSTR does not mention the overall 34 percent downfall in U.S. agricultural exports to Korea under the FTA’s first two years. Instead, the USTR boasts export increases in products like fruit and wine. The combined annual export gains in fruit and wine amount to $69 million, less than 6 percent of the more than $1.2 billion aggregate annual export loss in agricultural products.
  • Using a selective timeframe: The USTR’s assessment of the Korea FTA record ignores 12 months of available data under the FTA and fails to include in the pre-FTA baseline of comparison the three months of data immediately prior to the deal’s implementation. This selective timeframe, combined with the decision to incorporate foreign-made exports, allows the USTR to claim that the U.S. export downfall under the FTA is entirely because of diminished exports in corn and fossil fuels. But even after discounting both corn and fossil fuels, the full set of data shows that U.S. exports to Korea have still fallen under the FTA, and the U.S. trade deficit with Korea has still ballooned.

“The USTR’s resort to major data deceptions to try to play down the debacle of the Korea FTA indicates just how desperate the administration is to shake the mounting evidence that the FTA model it now seeks to expand with the TPP costs U.S. jobs,” said Wallach. “But using data tricks to try to cover up the failure of the largest Obama trade deal, like treating foreign-made products as U.S. exports, is likely to backfire, and members of Congress do not take kindly to deception.”

The decline in U.S. exports to Korea under the FTA’s first two years was broad-based; of the 15 U.S. sectors that export the most to Korea, nine of them have experienced export declines under the FTA. Export shifts under the FTA have been larger for losing sectors than for winning sectors. Of the 15 top export sectors, eight have seen declines in exports to Korea of greater than 5 percent while only three have seen growth of exports to Korea of greater than 5 percent.

Many of the sectors that the administration promised would be the biggest beneficiaries of the FTA have been among the largest losers, including U.S. meat producers. U.S. poultry exports to Korea have plummeted 31 percent under the FTA, while U.S. beef and pork exports have fallen 10 and 19 percent respectively. 

The U.S. automotive industry, another promised winner under the deal, has endured a surge in automotive imports from Korea that has swamped a marginal increase in U.S. automotive exports to Korea since the FTA took effect. While U.S. average annual automotive exports to Korea under the pact have been $294 million higher than before the deal, average annual automotive imports from Korea have soared by $4.9 billion under the deal, spurring a 32 percent increase in the U.S. automotive trade deficit with Korea.

Overall, U.S. export growth to countries with pacts like the Korea FTA has been particularly lackluster. Growth of U.S. exports to countries that are not FTA partners has exceeded U.S. export growth to FTA partners by 30 percent over the past decade.

For further analysis of the outcomes of the Korea FTA’s first two years, visit http://www.citizen.org/documents/Korea-FTA-USTR-data-debunk.pdf.  

Categories: Planet Not For Sale

The State of the States on Climate Adaptation

Subtitle:  Analysis of State Climate Adaptation Plans Related to Food and Agriculture Language:  English Author(s) (external):  Zack Robbins File:  2014_05_06_AdaptationPlans_ZR.pdf Foreward As the impacts of climate change become increasingly apparent, society is becoming more serious about the need to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and begin preparing for a changing climate. The needs are profound—practically every area of our economy and society will be impacted and we need comprehensive plans that address multiple areas of concern. Among these sectors, agriculture and food production are arguably the most important areas for adaptation. As IATP has detailed in past...

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Trading away localization in TTIP

IATP author(s):  Karen Hansen-Kuhn File:  2014_05_01_Localization_KHK.pdf All over the world, communities and nations are developing new ways to rebuild local economies. In the U.S. and Europe, a growing number of people are taking a look at the processed foods at the supermarket and opting instead for healthier choices: foods that are local, in season and grown with fewer pesticides. In emerging economies like Brazil, policies favor local farmers growing sustainable foods for school lunch programs and in doing so have lowered hunger rates dramatically. Perhaps most importantly, these policies haven’ solely focused on individual consumer choices. People are using their rights as citizens to make sure governments from local to national support localization. Now, an unprecedented new proposal in the U.S.-EU trade agreement seeks to target localization,...

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Froman Takes Heat from Senators for a TPP that Does Not Promote "Our Values"

Eyes on Trade - 2 May, 2014 - 00:00

“Done right, trade policy promotes not only our interests, but also our values.”  Those were the words of U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman in his testimony today before the Senate Finance Committee. Froman proceeded to defend the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – the sweeping deal mired in deadline-missing negotiations with 11 countries – as trade policy “done right.”

If the TPP promotes our values, what does that say about our values?  Do we value the ability of pharmaceutical corporations to reap monopoly profits during extended patent periods over the ability of cancer and HIV patients to access affordable medicines?  Do we value the ability of banks to engage in high-risk trading over the financial stability of a nation?  Such threats are manifest in the leaked texts of the TPP. 

Or what about the Obama administration's oft-touted value of transparency?  The administration has kept TPP texts under a remarkable degree of secrecy, providing limited access to members of Congress and zero access to the U.S. public, despite repeated congressional calls for transparency. When Senator Wyden (D-Ore.) specifically asked Froman if he would release a copy of the TPP text before President Obama signed and sealed the deal, Froman refused to answer.

Another instance of congressional defiance arose when Senator Schumer (D-N.Y.) asked Froman whether the administration's TPP negotiators have complied with the demand expressed by a majority of both houses of Congress to include currency manipulation disciplines in the deal.  Froman admitted that they have not.

Senators at the hearing called out Froman for such non-compliance and openly cast doubt on the notion that the TPP could gain congressional approval.

At one point in the hearing, Senator Thune (R-S.D.) asked whether there was a risk that the U.S. government could be challenged under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) for not approving the highly-controversial proposed Keystone XL pipeline. Such a challenge is possible under the extraordinary provisions in NAFTA, slated for expansion in the TPP, that empower foreign corporations to circumvent our domestic courts and directly challenge the U.S. government before extrajudicial tribunals over environmental and health policies.

Senator Thune’s question was not hypothetical. Yesterday the Canadian press reported that TransCanada – the Canadian corporation behind Keystone XL – may be considering using NAFTA’s foreign investor privileges to demand that the U.S. government provide compensation for delaying approval of the polemical pipeline. 

That’s right. TransCanada is reportedly contemplating using a “trade” pact to argue that U.S. taxpayers owe the corporation money because the Obama administration has not okayed a widely-opposed project that environmental groups project would increase carbon emissions and oil spills.

How could such a claim be substantiated?  Apparently TransCanada could argue that the pipeline delay violates its NAFTA-protected right to “fair and equitable treatment.”  On the basis of this same claim, tribunals have ordered governments to pay foreign firms hundreds of millions of dollars under NAFTA and related pacts for natural resource policies, environmental protections, and health and safety measures. TPP would expand these corporate privileges even further, empowering thousands more foreign firms to join TransCanada in contemplating extrajudicial attacks on public interest policies. 

Froman, of course, did not dwell on such threatening core provisions of the TPP.  What did he say about the pact?  Unsurprisingly, he recycled the tired pitch that the controversial deal would boost U.S. exports. He stated, “The Obama Administration has a strong record of success in promoting U.S. exports…” -- a claim ostensibly intended as a credit to the status quo trade policy that the TPP would expand. 

Actually, U.S. exports grew by zero percent in 2013, rendering virtually impossible Obama’s stated goal to double exports by the end of 2014. (At the export growth rate seen over the past two years, the export-doubling goal would not be reached until 2054.) That’s hardly a success story upon which to promote a more-of-the-same TPP. 

But perhaps the dismal export record of late is due to exports to countries with which we don’t have a “free trade” agreement (FTA) not keeping up with exports to our FTA partners? 

Nope.  U.S. goods exports to our 20 FTA partners actually fell slightly from 2012 to 2013, while exports to the rest of the world increased slightly.  This greater export growth to non-FTA partners than to FTA partners is not an anomaly. Growth in U.S. goods exports to non-FTA partners has actually been 30 percent higher than growth in exports to FTA partners over the last decade. 

Froman particularly singled out agriculture and manufacturing as two sectors on whose behalf the administration is pushing the TPP and similar deals. On manufacturing, he stated:

In 2013, the United States exported nearly $1.4 trillion in manufactured goods, which accounted for 87 percent of all U.S. goods exports and 61 percent of U.S. total exports. To support the growth of manufacturing and associated high-quality jobs here at home, the Obama Administration will continue to pursue trade policies aimed at keeping American manufacturers competitive with their global peers.

Last year, the United States ran a trade deficit in manufactured goods with its 20 FTA partners that topped $52.4 billion.  This represented an 8 percent increase from the $48.7 billion manufacturing trade deficit with FTA partners in 2012.  In contrast, the U.S. manufacturing trade deficit with non-FTA countries declined by 3 percent from 2012 to 2013.  Supporting U.S. manufacturing requires rethinking status quo trade policies, not “continuing to pursue” them. 

On agriculture, Froman stated:

Agriculture is vital to the American economy. In 2013, U.S. farmers and ranchers exported a record $148.4 billion of food and agricultural goods to consumers around the world. In 2014, the Administration aims to help them build on that record performance.

The U.S. agricultural trade balance with U.S. FTA partners last year was a $7.7 billion deficit, which represented a doubling of the U.S. agricultural trade deficit with FTA partners from 2012.  That's hardly a “record performance” for the trade policy model that the TPP would expand.

Froman was right to say that trade policy can promote our values when “done right.” Based on the evidence, we must not be doing it right.

Categories: Planet Not For Sale

On the U.S.-Japan Summit Statement, Regarding TPP

Eyes on Trade - 25 April, 2014 - 15:13

Statement of Lori Wallach, Director, Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch

“The U.S.-Japan summit was viewed as the do-or-die moment to revive TPP negotiations after years of missed deadlines, unbending opposition by other nations to many U.S. proposals, deadlocks on scores of TPP issues, and Congress’ refusal to grant President Obama trade authority.

A decision whether to hold another high-level TPP ministerial meeting tentatively slated for May was riding on the United States and Japan resolving a subset of market access issues. Shortly before President Obama left Japan, the country’s economy minister, Akira Amari, announced that the outcome was "not a basic accord although there was progress.”

Bizarrely, the official Summit Statement called the non-deal a “milestone in the TPP negotiations” and called on other TPP countries “to take the necessary steps to conclude the agreement.”  

Without knowing what market access gains they may achieve in return, other TPP nations have been loath to even consider high-stakes tradeoffs relating to U.S. demands in TPP to extend medicine patents, limit financial regulations,  discipline state-owned enterprises, enforce labor and environmental standards, limit financial regulation and more that are animating growing public and legislator opposition in many TPP nations.  

After months of non-stop U.S-Japan bilateral TPP negotiations and now President Obama and Prime Minister Abe not announcing a breakthrough, TPP should be ready for burial. Instead, like some horror movie monster that will not die, TPP is being animated by a broad coalition of powerful corporate interests and we are told talks will continue but it remains unclear when and how.”

A checklist of all of the unresolved TPP issues can be viewed here

Categories: Planet Not For Sale

As Obama Visits TPP Countries, New Obama Administration Report Targets Their Public Interest Policies as “Trade Barriers” to be Eliminated

Eyes on Trade - 22 April, 2014 - 20:31

As President Obama leaves on his Asia tour today to try to paper over the deep divisions that have bewitched the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, he will likely refrain from reiterating the criticisms his administration recently levied against the sensitive domestic policies of the TPP governments he will be visiting.  

The 2014 National Trade Estimate Report, published earlier this month by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), targets financial, privacy, health, and other public interest policies of each TPP nation as "trade barriers" that the U.S. government seeks to eliminate. The report offers unusual insight into why negotiations over the sweeping, 12-nation deal are contentious and have repeatedly missed deadlines for completion.

The policies of other TPP nations criticized by the 384-page USTR report include New Zealand’s popular health programs to control medicine costs, an Australian law to prevent the offshoring of consumers’ private health data, Japan’s pricing system that reduces the cost of medical devices, Vietnam’s post-crisis regulations requiring banks to hold adequate capital, Peru’s policies favoring generic versions of expensive biologic medicines, Canada’s patent standards requiring that a medicine’s utility should be demonstrated to obtain monopoly patent rights, and Mexico’s “sugary beverage tax” and “junk food tax.”

The Obama administration also targets seven of the 11 TPP partners, including majority-Muslim countries like Malaysia and Brunei, for restricting the importation or sale of alcohol, takes issue with several TPP countries’ restrictions on the importation of tobacco, and laments Vietnam’s restriction on the importation of “a variety of hazardous waste items.”

The Obama administration report calls for some TPP nations to adopt copyright enforcement measures akin to those proposed under the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which was defeated in the U.S. Congress. For example, the report notes that the Obama administration “has also urged Chile … to amend its Internet service provider liability regime to permit effective action against any act of infringement of copyright and related rights.” The report also criticizes data privacy policies, describing Canadian privacy rules as too “restrictive” and Japan’s Privacy Act as “unnecessarily burdensome.”

The report attacks six TPP nations’ rules requiring foreign takeovers of major domestic firms, including banks, to be vetted by the government. Also listed as “investment barriers” are Malaysia and New Zealand’s requirements that foreign investors obtain permission before acquiring land, and Peru and Mexico’s prohibitions on foreign acquisition of land along their national borders.

The report also critiques government procurement rules in several TPP nations that are similar to the U.S. Buy American policy in giving preference to domestic producers. This includes Malaysia’s bumiputera policies, preferences for domestically produced medicines in Vietnam’s hospitals and Japan’s preferences for local companies when contracting major taxpayer-funded construction projects.

The USTR report further accuses some TPP governments of broad corruption or even incompetence. For example, the report states that two of Peru’s three federal branches of government lack the “impartiality” or “expertise” required to fulfill their responsibilities.

Here are some of the domestic policies in Malaysia and Japan -- the two TPP nations that Obama will soon be visiting -- that the report singles out for criticism: 

Malaysia

  • The report takes issue with Malaysia’s “extremely high effective tariff rates” on alcohol and its strict licensing policy for the importation of pork – strange “barriers” to highlight in a country where three out of every five people are Muslim. Malaysia’s halal standards for meat have also been targeted as a “barrier” in a companion USTR report on Technical Barriers to Trade (published in 2013, the most recent edition available). USTR is concerned that Malaysia requires “slaughter plants to maintain dedicated halal production facilities and ensure segregated storage and transportation facilities for halal and non-halal products.” Instead, the report suggests that the government should conform its notions of Islamic meat-processing requirements to those established by Codex Alimentarius, an international food standards body at which multinational food corporations play a central role.
  • The report notes that while the Malaysian economy is generally open to foreign investment, the government requires that department stores and other businesses “must reserve at least 30 percent of shelf space in their premises for goods and products manufactured by bumiputera-owned small and medium size industries.” While the policy aims to provide greater economic opportunity to historically marginalized ethnic Malays, to USTR the policy is a “services barrier.”
  • The report lists as “services barriers” the limits that Malaysia’s central bank imposes on the transaction fees and credit card interest rates that financial firms can charge Malaysian consumers.
  • Malaysia’s central bank determines whether foreign banks can do business in the country on the basis of “prudential criteria” and whether the business would be in the “best interests of Malaysia.” USTR calls the latter standard “vague” and “nontransparent” just before specifying the concrete criteria that it entails: “the contribution of the investment to promoting new high value-added economic activities, addressing demand for financial services where there are gaps, enhancing trade and investment linkages, and providing high-skilled employment opportunities.” 
  • USTR critiques Malaysian policies that impact the importation of motor vehicles, including the usage of “traffic restrictions and noise standards that affect the usage of large motorcycles.”

Japan

  • The report critiques Japan’s laws protecting the privacy of citizens’ personal data, calling them “unnecessarily burdensome.” The U.S. government, according to the report, “has urged the Japanese government to reexamine the provisions and application of the Privacy Act, so as to foster appropriate sharing of data…”
  • The report expresses disapproval of Japan’s food labeling policy, which “mandates that all ingredients and food additives be listed by name along with content percentages, and include a description of the manufacturing process.” In a time when consumers are demanding ever more information about the products they consume, USTR complains that Japan’s progressive labeling policy is “burdensome” and “risks the release of proprietary information to competitors.”
  • USTR critiques Japan’s regulation of nutritional supplements, citing several “barriers” that inhibit U.S. corporations’ sales of vitamins and supplements in Japan. Specifically, the report criticizes “the difficulties associated with using unregistered food additives” in nutritional supplements to be sold to Japanese consumers.
  • The report states that U.S. pharmaceutical corporations have “concerns” with “a mechanism to cut prices of medical devices in Japan.” In establishing the price of a given medical device, Japan incorporates the average price of several developed countries, including the United States, to ensure that domestic prices do not grossly exceed those of comparator countries. A number of other countries, such as Canada and Switzerland, use similar calculations to set pharmaceutical prices and control healthcare costs. But USTR takes issue with Japan’s policy, relaying the concern of the U.S. pharmaceutical industry that the cost containment mechanism could inhibit U.S. firms’ sales in Japan. 
  • USTR calls on “the Japanese government to ensure that all necessary measures are taken to achieve a level playing field between the Japan Post companies and private sector participants in Japan’s banking, insurance, and express delivery markets.” The report states that the U.S. government “welcomed” the decision of Japan’s government last year to impose a moratorium on new cancer insurance coverage from Japan Post. The U.S. government had demanded the moratorium as a condition for endorsing Japan’s entry into the TPP, citing concerns that new cancer insurance coverage from Japan Post would create unfair competition for private, U.S.-based insurance providers. Three months after Japan heeded the U.S. moratorium request, and in the same week that Japan joined the TPP, U.S.-based Aflac Incorporated announced that it had signed a deal with Japan Post that confirmed Aflac as the exclusive provider of cancer insurance in Japan’s state-owned postal offices. USTR’s report cautions Japan that before deciding to end the moratorium and allow Japan Post to offer cancer insurance or other new insurance products, the government should engage in “active solicitation and consideration of private sector views.” The report does not mention a need to solicit views on how continuing to constrain Japan Post’s insurance offerings could affect access to health insurance for Japan’s cancer patients.
  • The U.S. government report demands a standard of transparency in Japan’s postal reforms that the U.S. government itself has not been willing to follow in the TPP negotiations. The report calls for “timely and accurate disclosure” of key texts related to Japan’s postal reform, and “public release of meeting agendas, meeting minutes, and other relevant documents.”  In contrast, leaks have revealed that the United States and other TPP countries have agreed to keep TPP texts classified until four years after the agreement enters into force or talks collapse.
  • According to the report, the U.S. government is “urging[] the Japanese government to work with foreign universities to find a nationwide solution that grants tax benefits comparable to those provided to Japanese schools.” Why should the government provide foreign universities the same tax breaks and taxpayer-funded subsidies that it offers to Japan’s own schools? According to USTR, meeting this request is necessary for the foreign schools “to continue to provide their unique contributions to Japan’s educational environment.”
  • The report states that “the U.S. Government has raised strong concerns” about Japan’s Wood Use Point Program for “promoting[] the use of domestic Japanese wood products over imported wood products,” while noting that the purpose of the program is “to promote the use of local wood.”  
  • USTR accuses Japan’s government of using policy advisory groups that are too often “opaque,” noting that “nonmembers are too often not uniformly offered meaningful opportunities to provide input into these groups’ deliberations.” The critique mirrors, nearly word for word, criticisms levied against USTR itself for administering a non-transparent and exclusive official trade advisory system comprised almost entirely of corporate representatives. USTR continues by urging Japan “to ensure that ample and meaningful opportunities are provided for all interested parties, as appropriate, to participate in, and directly provide input to, these councils and groups.” U.S. stakeholder groups have continually made the same recommendation to USTR to open the closed-door trade advisory system, though “meaningful” changes have yet to be seen.
Categories: Planet Not For Sale

Administration Desperate to Announce Breakthrough on TPP in Japan, But Congress not Buying Economic or Foreign Policy Sales Pitch and Won’t Give Obama Fast Track

Eyes on Trade - 21 April, 2014 - 22:34

Public Citizen Publishes Updated List of TPP Issues That Require Resolution for a Deal to Be Made; List Largely Unchanged Since 2/14 Singapore TPP Ministerial

A major goal of President Barack Obama’s Asia trip is to revive the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) after four years of negotiations have resulted in talks deadlocked over scores of issues and growing U.S. congressional and public opposition. 

Whether or not any real deal is made, a “breakthrough” almost certainly will be announced because the U.S-Japan summit is viewed as a do-or-die moment to inject momentum into the TPP process. Familiarity with kabuki theatre may be useful in interpreting the summit outcomes on TPP.

Obama arrives in Asia without trade authority and with TPP partners Japan and Malaysia aware that the U.S Congress, which has exclusive constitutional authority over trade policy, is increasingly skeptical about the TPP. January 2014 legislation to enact Fast Track authority was dead on arrival in the U.S. House of Representatives. Already in late 2013, 180 House members had announced they would never authorize the Fast Track process again; more announced opposition when the bill was submitted.

The prospect that Obama cannot deliver on whatever “compromises” he may make was heightened by a congressional sign-on letter circulating last week calling for Japan to be thrown out of TPP negotiations unless it agreed to eliminate its agricultural tariffs and major U.S. agribusiness interests calling for the same.

But at the same time, there is enormous pressure for Obama and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to announce a breakthrough. Months of non-stop U.S-Japan bilateral TPP negotiations and ministerial-level meetings have failed to overcome sensitive agricultural and auto market access issues. Without knowing what market access gains they may achieve in return, other TPP nations have been loath to consider high-stakes tradeoffs relating to U.S. demands in TPP to extend medicine patents, limit financial regulations,  discipline state-owned enterprises, enforce labor and environmental standards, limit financial regulation.  

A checklist of these unresolved issues is included at the bottom of this memo. Despite the unprecedented secrecy surrounding the TPP negotiations, leaks of TPP documents are fueling opposition in many TPP countries as the pact’s prospective threats are revealed.  As a result, the other TPP nation governments face considerable domestic political liability for acceding to various U.S. TPP demands.

Finally, as the economic sales pitch for the TPP has faced increasing incredulity in Congress, TPP proponents have shifted to the foreign policy arguments-of-last-report used to sell flagging trade deals. The president’s Asia trip is the best possible platform to make arguments that distract from the TPP’s merits and shift the focus to broad brush narratives that connect to congressional and public anxieties about a rising China.

A report released last week by Public Citizen reveals that nearly identical foreign policy arguments have consistently proven baseless when used to sell trade deals over the past two decades. The report reviews foreign policy claims made to promote the TPP, ranging from the absurd to the counterfactual, to those that repeatedly have been disproved by the actual outcomes of similar claims made for past pacts. Repeatedly, Congress has approved trade deals based on dire predictions that failure to do so would mean diminished U.S. power,  the takeover of important markets by competitors or foreign instability, only to find that many of those predictions came true in spite of, and sometimes even because of, pacts’ enactment.

Among the report’s findings, echoed last week in a call with members of Congress and Asia policy expert Clyde Prestowitz:

  • Past free trade agreements (FTAs) failed to counter the rising economic influence of China (or Japan): From 2000 to 2011, U.S. FTAs with eight Latin American countries were sold as bulwarks against foreign economic influence in the hemisphere. The U.S. pacts were implemented and China’s exports to Latin America soared more than 1,280 percent, from $10.5 billion to more than $145 billion, while the U.S. saw only modest export growth. The U.S.-produced share of Latin America’s imported goods fell 36 percent, while China’s share increased 575 percent. Similarly, under the North American Free Trade Agreement’s (NAFTA) first 20 years, the U.S.-produced share of Mexico’s imported goods dropped from almost 70 percent to less than 50 percent, while China’s share rose more than 2,600 percent. Similarly, after hysterical claims that Japan would seize U.S. market share in Latin America by signing its own free trade agreements unless the United States approved NAFTA and other FTAs, such Japanese FTAs were signed anyway.
  • The TPP will not “contain” or isolate China: U.S. officials have repeatedly welcomed China as a prospective TPP member. How can the TPP isolate China if China can become a member? Administration officials note that China could join only if it agreed to the TPP’s rules, but those rules would give Chinese products duty-free access to the U.S. market and new foreign investor rights and privileges that would enhance China’s relative economic might within the United States. This may explain China’s statements of increased interest in joining the TPP. The TPP will not empower Pacific allies to act as a bulwark against Chinese influence, given that many of those nations see China as a partner. The report cites officials from TPP countries stating that if the TPP were to become a China-containment tool, they would no longer participate in TPP negotiations. 
  • The TPP is not a vehicle to impose “our” rules vs. China imposing “theirs”: The TPP’s actual terms undercut the false, but conveniently scary, dichotomy posed as a choice between using TPP to impose “our” rules internationally or living with rules set by China. This argument presumes the TPP to represent “our” rules, but in fact many of the TPP’s terms reflect the narrow special interests of the 600 official U.S. corporate trade advisors that have shaped them. TPP investment rules would promote more U.S. job offshoring and further gut the U.S. manufacturing base that is essential for our national security and domestic infrastructure. TPP procurement rules would ban Buy American policies that reinvest our tax dollars to create economic growth and jobs at home. TPP service sector rules would raise our energy prices and undermine our energy independence and financial stability. TPP drug and copyright terms would raise health care costs and thwart innovation. The study summarizes a recent U.S. Department of Defense report that concludes that U.S. deindustrialization poses a threat to national security and our nation’s economic wellbeing.

TPP deal vs. kabuki checklist - to actually have a TPP deal, these issues must be resolved:

 Disciplines Against Currency Manipulation

A TPP without binding currency provisions could be dead on arrival in Congress. The other TPP nations know this but still oppose such terms. While 230 members of the U.S. House of Representatives and 60 U.S. senators have written to Obama demanding currency manipulation disciplines in the TPP, U.S. negotiators haven’t initiated negotiations on this, much less secured terms. Among others, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a prominent supporter of past pacts, announced he would oppose the TPP if it does not include enforceable currency disciplines.

 Enforceable Labor and Environmental Standards

As a January 2014 text leak revealed, all other TPP nations oppose many TPP Environment Chapter terms that the United States demands. This includes obligations that, if nations fail to enforce certain environmental agreements that they have signed, they will face TPP enforcement and trade sanctions. Other U.S. bottom lines that face unified opposition are a ban on trade in illegally harvested timber and endangered species, with violations subject to trade sanctions, and enforceable disciplines on fisheries subsidies. Among the TPP countries are those, including Japan, that have led unwavering opposition to disciplines on fishery subsidies, including in the context of the World Trade Organization. More broadly, the other countries have to date rejected the U.S. demand that both the environment and labor chapters be enforceable and subject to the same dispute resolution system as other TPP chapters. These are terms that Congress forced President George W. Bush to include in his pacts. If the Obama administration rolls back the labor and environmental terms included in Bush-signed agreements, it will lose almost all Democratic congressional support for the TPP. In addition, if the labor standards were enforceable, it remains unresolved how the TPP could include Vietnam, one of four countries cited by the Department of Labor for using both child and forced labor in apparel production.

 State-Owned Enterprises

After years of deadlock during which countries could not even agree on a text from which to negotiate, substantive talks are now under way but there is still no agreed text for this chapter from which to narrow down differences. To complete a deal, either the United States will have to roll back its demands, which would be extremely unpopular in Congress, or a bloc of TPP countries with numerous state-owned enterprises could have to make major concessions. 

 Intellectual Property Chapter Patent and “Transparency” Text on Medicine Pricing Rules

Most other TPP countries continue to oppose U.S. proposals to expand the scope of patentability, including terms such as new monopoly patents for new uses of already-patented drugs that would promote patent evergreening as well as terms to subject surgical procedures to monopoly patents and extend data exclusivity terms that would deliver on Big Pharma’s demands for monopoly powers that raise medicine prices. The powerful American pharmaceutical industry has declared that it will oppose the TPP if the pact reverses extreme provisions in past U.S. Free Trade Agreements (FTAs). A sizeable bloc in Congress has stated that it will oppose the TPP if such terms are included. Another contested issue is the U.S. proposal for a cynically dubbed “Annex on Transparency and Procedural Fairness for Healthcare Technologies” that would allow drug firms to challenge medicine formulary reimbursement and pricing decisions. The target ostensibly was the national health care systems in New Zealand, Australia and other TPP nations that use formulary lists to reduce health care costs. Grassroots and legislator opposition to the U.S. proposal is virulent, making concessions politically perilous. Big Pharma insists that these terms must extend beyond those contained in the U.S.-Australia FTA. Meanwhile, an increasing number of U.S. state officials and Democratic congressional supporters of the Affordable Care Act also oppose those terms, which could undermine enhanced use of formularies to reduce U.S. health care costs.

 Copyright Extensions

Hollywood- and recording industry-inspired proposals that would greatly extend copyright durations, limit innovation, restrict access to educational materials and force Internet providers to act as “copyright police” by cutting off people’s Internet access (think of the SOPA/PIPA debacle) have triggered public outrage in numerous TPP countries, leading to a negotiation stalemate. The United States has continued to demand that the TPP be used to require countries to adopt domestic copyright terms beyond international norms and aggressive copyright and enforcement provisions that would limit the public domain and Internet freedoms. A bloc of countries remains solidly opposed to various elements of these demands. There also is entrenched disagreement about whether copyright should be able to keep works of art and literature out of the public domain for 70 years after death of the author.

 Financial Regulation and Capital Controls

With the International Monetary Fund endorsing the use of capital controls to avoid floods of speculative capital that cause financial crises, it’s no surprise that there is united opposition among other TPP countries to a U.S. demand that the TPP include a ban on the use of various commonsense, macro-prudential measures, including capital controls and financial transactions taxes. While the United States has objected to an exception allowing the use of such measures, other TPP nations – including Malaysia, have stated they will not agree to a TPP that prohibits the use of such measures.

 Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS)

Australia is demanding a broad exception to ISDS, which elevates individual corporations to equal status with sovereign nations and allows them to enforce a public treaty by “suing” national governments for compensation before international tribunals comprised of private-sector attorneys over claims that government actions undermine their expected future profits. The National Conference of State Legislatures, the body representing the 50 U.S. state legislative bodies, has adopted a policy of opposing any trade agreement with investor-state enforcement. The United States is demanding all countries submit to this system. Even those TPP nations that have agreed to investor-state enforcement oppose the U.S. demand that government natural resource concessions, private-public-partnership utility management contracts and procurement contracts be subject to such extra-judicial processes. The other countries also oppose a U.S. demand that the investor-state terms apply “pre-establishment” – creating a right to investment, including acquisition of land. The United States has consistently opposed an exception supported by most other TPP nations that would safeguard domestic environmental, health and other policies from the TPP tribunals.

  Mechanism for the TPP to Go into Effect

Agreement on the legal mechanisms required for implementing the TPP has proven extremely elusive. A standard provision in the implementing legislation of past U.S. trade agreements requires that, after the U.S. Congress ratifies the pact, the president withhold formal written notification of that approval from partner countries until the president certifies that the partner countries have altered their own laws and policies to comply with the trade deal. That is to say, even after both the United States and its trade partners have ratified an agreement, it takes effect only after the United States unilaterally certifies that its partners have changed domestic laws according to U.S. demands. TPP nations argue the certification process gives the U.S. government and corporations enormous leverage to force them to conform to American interpretation of trade agreement terms – some of which are often deliberately vague, opaque and contentious. This process also often delays implementation of agreements.

  Sensitive Market Access Issues

  • Agriculture: Japan’s parliament has listed five “sacred” commodities that must be excluded from TPP tariff-zeroing: rice, beef/pork, wheat, sugar and dairy. The United States reportedly had backed down on its demand, also pushed by New Zealand and other TPP nations, that Japan agree to zero tariffs for all of the hundreds of product lines under those categories. A deal that falls short of tariff zeroing but allows more U.S. rice imports is rumored. But on pork and beef, U.S. negotiators are under enormous pressure from Congress and agribusiness interests not to relent – and a standoff has ensued or months. Meanwhile, Australia wants U.S. access for its sugar exports, a demand that the United States rejected in its bilateral FTA with Australia. The United States has declared it will not negotiate new market access with countries with which it already has FTAs – in no small part to avoid the wrath of the politically powerful U.S. sugar industry, which has strong support among Democrats and Republicans in Congress. New Zealand’s main TPP demand is increased access to American and Canadian markets for its massive dairy export industry. But with dairy farmers in many U.S. congressional districts, a large bloc of Democrats and Republicans strongly oppose this demand. Yet, despite its refusal to negotiate market access with its current FTA partners, the United States has demanded access for dairy products in Canadian markets – a condition it couldn’t secure in the 1993 NAFTA and that Canada has also rejected for the TPP.
  •  Autos: The U.S. Congress insists that Japan be subject to a special bilateral agreement providing certain additional concessions relating to auto trade, insurance and access for U.S. beef. While the Abe administration agreed to this demand, the bilateral pact – a U.S. condition for Japan being included in a final TPP deal – has not been finalized, with negotiations on auto trade issues especially mired. Japan has rejected a U.S. demand that tariffs be phased out over 30 years.
  • Government Procurement: The United States wants national government contracts above a set threshold be made available to firms from all TPP countries on equal terms. But many Democratic and GOP members of Congress oppose any waiver of Buy American preferences, which would be required to implement this rule. The U.S. demand has also raised broad opposition in Malaysia, where its “bumiputera policy” – which guarantees a portion of government procurement contracts go to ethnic Malays – is key to preventing a recurrence of violent attacks against the country’s ethnic Chinese population, which dominates its business sector. Other TPP nations want the United States to guarantee that their firms will get the same access to the 50 U.S. states’ procurement activities as they would provide to U.S. firms, which U.S. negotiators have refused.
  • Apparel and Shoes: Vietnam has insisted on duty-free access for its clothing made with inputs from China and other non-TPP nations, and the elimination of U.S. tariffs on footwear. The “rule of origin” Vietnam requests would reverse a long-standing “yarn forward” rule included in past U.S. pacts to support U.S. jobs. If honored, Vietnam’s demand would increase the uncertainty that Congress would approve the TPP. 
Categories: Planet Not For Sale

Corporate Group Launches “Fact-Based” Trade Series, Avoids Facts

Eyes on Trade - 17 April, 2014 - 19:32

When launching a new series of materials touted as “fact-based analysis,” it is unwise to begin with a distortion of the facts.  But that’s the inauspicious move taken today by the Emergency Committee for American Trade (ECAT), a corporate alliance that has launched a new “Trade Notes” series with some confused data on the record of U.S. trade under “free trade” agreements (FTAs).  

Official government data show that U.S. trade deficits have ballooned with FTA partners while actually diminishing with the rest of the world.  As we reported recently, the aggregate U.S. trade deficit with FTA partners has increased by more than $147 billion, or 443%, since the FTAs were implemented.  In contrast, the aggregate deficit with all non-FTA countries (even including China) has decreased by more than $130 billion, or 16%, since 2006 (the median entry date of existing FTAs). 

Two factors explain this proclivity toward trade deficits with FTA partner countries.  First, imports from those countries have spiked – an unsurprising result of a trade model that has incentivized offshoring and pitted U.S. workers against their lower-wage counterparts abroad.  Second, and perhaps more surprising, is that U.S. export growth to FTA partner countries, despite all promises to the contrary, has been slower than to non-FTA countries. Indeed, growth of U.S. exports to countries that are not FTA partners has exceeded U.S. export growth to countries that are FTA partners by 30 percent over the last decade.

But that isn’t the takeaway from ECAT’s Trade Notes debut today.  In response to “some commentators [who] have argued that trade agreements drive growth in U.S. trade deficits,” ECAT asserts, “recent data suggest that trade agreements, on the whole, actually help to improve U.S. trade balances with FTA partner countries.” 

How can ECAT make this claim?  First, they take oil and gas out of the trade data. Echoing the refrain of many FTA proponents that burgeoning FTA deficits are just about oil imports, ECAT displays a chart that appears to show aggregate non-oil trade deficits with FTA partners diminishing and then turning into surpluses over the last decade.

But the official government data beg to differ.  Even if we remove oil and gas, the non-oil U.S. goods trade balance last year with all U.S. FTA partners was a $100 billion deficit, not a surplus. And while ECAT claims that the non-oil trade balance with FTA countries has been improving, the non-oil U.S. trade deficit with these 20 countries was larger last year than in any of the last six years. 

What, then, explains the gulf between the data and ECAT’s claim of a growing non-oil surplus with FTA countries?  The primary explanation is that ECAT – like the U.S. Trade Representative and fellow corporate conglomerates such as the Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, Business Roundtable, etc. – has decided to count foreign-made exports as U.S. exports.  As we’ve explained time and again, determining FTAs’ impacts on U.S. jobs requires counting only U.S.-made exports.  Instead, ECAT also counts “re-exports” – goods made abroad that are shipped through the United States en route to a final destination.  As re-exports to FTA partner countries have been steadily increasing, counting them in trade data – as ECAT does – has had an increasingly distortionary effect on the true record of FTAs (e.g. you can make the NAFTA deficit look half as big simply by counting foreign-made re-exports as U.S. exports). 

In announcing today’s new Trade Note series, ECAT President Calman Cohen stated, “ECAT member companies recognize the importance of maintaining a fact-based dialogue on the contribution of trade and investment to our national economic interest.  ECAT seeks to make a constructive contribution to that dialogue through its new Trade Notes series.”

We’re all for contributions to fact-based dialogue.  Let’s hope we start seeing some from ECAT.  

Categories: Planet Not For Sale

Tratados de inversión revisados

Blog de Javier Echaide - 12 April, 2014 - 22:39
Por Martin Khor (*)Los tratados de inversión comienzan a ser cuestionados. Varios países los están revisando a raíz de la gran cantidad de demandas presentadas, alegando que los cambios en las políticas gubernamentales afectan sus ganancias futuras.Indonesia, por ejemplo, ya notificó a Holanda que dará por concluido su tratado bilateral de inversión y habría adelantado, además, que cancelará la totalidad de sus sesenta y siete tratados de este tipo, según informó la embajada del país europeo en Yakarta.De confirmarse esta noticia, Indonesia se sumaría a Sudáfrica, que el año pasado hizo un anuncio similar, tras la demanda de una empresa minera británica, que reclamó por pérdidas debido a las medidas gubernamentales destinadas a reparar las políticas del apartheid.Otros países también están revisando sus tratados bilaterales de inversión, impulsados por el aumento de demandas presentadas por empresas extranjeras con el argumento de que los cambios en las políticas o los contratos gubernamentales afectan sus ganancias futuras. La más importante fue presentada contra Ecuador, que debería compensar a la petrolera estadounidense OXY en 2,300 millones de dólares.El sistema que faculta a los inversores extranjeros a demandar a los gobiernos ante un tribunal internacional, evitando así la legislación nacional, es un tema de fuerte controversia en las negociaciones en curso del Acuerdo de Asociación Transpacífico (TPP).El sistema de solución de diferencias entre inversionistas y Estados está contenido en los tratados de libre comercio y en los bilaterales de inversión. Cuando se firmaron, varios países ignoraban que, en virtud de disposiciones vagamente redactadas, los inversionistas extranjeros podrían demandarlos con el argumento de que no fueron tratados con justicia o que les expropiaron sus posibles ganancias.Indonesia fue demandada por la empresa británica Churchill Mining ante el Centro Internacional de Arreglo de Diferencias Relativas a Inversiones (CIADI), con sede en Washington, con el argumento de que el gobierno había violado el Tratado Bilateral de Inversión firmado con el Reino Unido cuando se canceló su contrato con un gobierno local en Kalimantan y reclama una indemnización de mil millones de dólares. Éste es uno de los casos que llevaron al gobierno indonesio a revisar sus numerosos tratados de este tipo.India también está revisando sus tratados bilaterales de inversión, luego de que varias empresas de telefonía iniciaran juicios debido a que el Tribunal Supremo canceló sus licencias para servicios móviles 2G otorgadas en 2008 tras un escándalo de corrupción vinculado a su concesión.Pero no sólo los países en desarrollo están preocupados con el sistema de solución de diferencias entre inversionistas y Estados. La Unión Europea se muestra reticente con el mecanismo, similar al del TPP, contenido en la Asociación Transatlántica de Comercio e Inversiones (TTIP), el acuerdo que está negociando con Estados Unidos.Alemania expresó a la Comisión Europea que el TTIP no debe incluir dicho mecanismo y la ministra de Economía, Brigitte Zypries, dijo al parlamento alemán que el gobierno estaba decidido a excluir de este acuerdo los derechos de arbitraje, según informó el Financial Times. “Desde la perspectiva del gobierno federal [alemán], los inversores estadounidenses en la Unión Europea tienen suficiente protección jurídica en los tribunales nacionales”, aseveró.En Francia, la ministra de Comercio Exterior, Nicole Bricq, había manifestado su oposición a este mecanismo de arbitraje y en el Reino Unido, un informe encargado por el gobierno también presentó objeciones.La preocupación europea ante el arbitraje internacional de inversiones tiene dos causas. Las demandas también están afectando a los países de la Unión Europea. (Alemania, por ejemplo, fue llevada ante el CIADI por la compañía sueca Vattenfall, que argumentó haber perdido más de mil millones de euros por la decisión de Berlín de eliminar gradualmente la energía nuclear tras el desastre de Fukushima). Y causan alarma pública. (Un informe de dos organizaciones europeas que reveló la arbitrariedad de las decisiones, cómo el sistema está monopolizado por unas pocas grandes firmas de abogados y cómo los tribunales están plagados de conflictos de intereses conmocionó no solo a la sociedad civil sino también a las autoridades políticas europeas.)En enero, la Comisión Europea suspendió las negociaciones con Estados Unidos sobre las disposiciones del sistema de solución de diferencias entre inversionistas y Estados en el TTIP y anunció que sostendría consultas sobre el tema con la opinión pública durante noventa días.Hasta el momento, Estados Unidos insiste en mantener el sistema de solución de diferencias entre inversionistas y Estados en el TPP y el TTIP. Pero si la incipiente oposición europea afecta a las negociaciones del TTIP, podría afectar también a las del TPP, al fortalecer la posición de quienes se oponen a este mecanismo.Mientras tanto, debe esperarse que otros países quieran revisar sus tratados bilaterales de inversión. Los países en desarrollo que pretenden cancelar sus acuerdos con los países europeos pueden alegar ahora que también sus contrapartes tienen serias dudas sobre el sistema de solución de diferencias entre inversionistas y Estados.(*) Martin Khor fundador de TWN y director ejecutivo del Centro del Sur.
Categories: Planet Not For Sale

TPP Foreign Policy Arguments Mimic False Claims Made for Past Pacts

Eyes on Trade - 10 April, 2014 - 23:47

New Report Debunks Notion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership as a Bulwark Against China, Catalogues Outcomes of Similar Geopolitical Claims Made About Pacts Since NAFTA 

As President Barack Obama’s Asia trip looms and proponents of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) increasingly pitch the deal as a bulwark against China’s rising influence, a report released today by Public Citizen reveals that nearly identical foreign policy arguments have consistently proven baseless when used to sell trade deals over the past two decades. The report reviews foreign policy claims made to promote the TPP, ranging from the absurd to the counterfactual, to those that repeatedly have been disproved by the actual outcomes of similar claims made for past pacts.

“The same old foreign policy arguments get trotted out to sell trade agreements after the economic case fails,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. “Repeatedly, Congress has approved bad deals based on dire predictions that failure to do so would mean diminished U.S. power,  the takeover of important markets by competitors or foreign instability, only to find that many of those predictions came true in spite of, and sometimes even because of, pacts’ enactment.”

While U.S. concerns about the implications of China’s rising economic power and influence are legitimate, the notion that the establishment – or not – of any specific U.S. trade agreement would control this process is contradicted by the record. Public Citizen’s study examines the outcomes of claims that past trade pacts would counter economic gains by Japan, Europe and China in trade-partner markets; strengthen U.S. foreign policy allies or thwart enemies; and improve U.S. national security.

Among the report’s findings:

  • Past free trade agreements (FTAs) failed to counter the rising economic influence of China (or Japan): From 2000 to 2011, U.S. FTAs with eight Latin American countries were sold as bulwarks against foreign economic influence in the hemisphere. The U.S. pacts were implemented and China’s exports to Latin America soared more than 1,280 percent, from $10.5 billion to more than $145 billion, while the U.S. saw only modest export growth. The U.S.-produced share of Latin America’s imported goods fell 36 percent, while China’s share increased 575 percent. Similarly, under the North American Free Trade Agreement’s (NAFTA) first 20 years, the U.S.-produced share of Mexico’s imported goods dropped from almost 70 percent to less than 50 percent, while China’s share rose more than 2,600 percent. Similarly, after hysterical claims that Japan would seize U.S. market share in Latin America by signing its own free trade agreements unless the United States approved NAFTA and other FTAs, such Japanese FTAs were signed anyway.
  • The TPP will not “contain” or isolate China: The report cites repeated statements by U.S. officials welcoming China as a prospective TPP member. How can the TPP isolate China if China is welcome to become a member? Administration officials note that China could join only if it agreed to the TPP’s rules, but those rules would give Chinese products duty-free access to the U.S. market and new foreign investor rights and privileges that would enhance China’s relative economic might within the United States. This may explain China’s statements of increased interest in joining the TPP. The TPP will not empower Pacific allies to act as a bulwark against Chinese influence, given that many of those nations see China as a partner. The report cites officials from TPP countries stating that if the TPP were to become a China-containment tool, they would no longer participate in TPP negotiations. 
  • The TPP is not a vehicle to impose “our” rules: The proposed TPP rules undercut the false, but conveniently scary, dichotomy used to sell the TPP: that we have a choice between using the pact to impose “our” rules internationally or living with rules set by China. This argument presumes the TPP to represent  “our” rules, but in fact many of the TPP’s terms reflect the narrow special interests of the 600 official U.S. corporate trade advisors that have shaped them. TPP investment rules would promote more U.S. job offshoring and further gut the U.S. manufacturing base that is essential for both our national security and domestic infrastructure. TPP procurement rules would ban Buy American policies that reinvest our tax dollars to create economic growth and jobs at home. TPP service sector rules would raise our energy prices and undermine our energy independence and financial stability. TPP drug and copyright terms would raise health care costs and thwart innovation. The study summarizes a recent U.S. Department of Defense report that concludes that U.S. deindustrialization poses a threat to national security and our nation’s economic wellbeing.

“Some politicians and pundits seem to hope that raising geopolitical issues that the TPP cannot affect will activate Americans’ anxieties about a rising China and distract from the real issue: Would the TPP benefit most Americans?” Wallach said. 

The report also catalogues decades of trade-pact foreign policy claims, revealing that recent administration arguments for the TPP echo, nearly word-for-word, the sales pitches used for past pacts. For example, Vice President Joe Biden recently called the TPP “a symbol of American staying power,” mirroring the 1993 NAFTA pitch by then-U.S. Rep. Dan Glickman (D-Kan.): “NAFTA has become a critical and yes, symbolic test of U.S. leadership.”

The many unfounded foreign policy claims that repeatedly have been used to push past FTAs and that are being recycled today to pitch the TPP include:

  • NAFTA: In 1993, then-U.S. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) advocated for NAFTA, saying it would “contribute to the growth and the maturity of the Mexican economy and thereby alleviate some of the potential for social and political explosions which could set back progress.” But after 20 years of NAFTA, Mexico’s average growth rate ranked 18th out of the 20 Latin America nations. Indeed, NAFTA contributed to significant poverty and instability within Mexico by enabling a flood of subsidized U.S. corn that eliminated the livelihoods of 2.5 million Mexican farmers and agricultural workers. The mass dislocation contributed to a doubling of migration to the United States in NAFTA’s first seven years and fueled the violence of Mexico’s spiraling drug war. NAFTA failed to prevent the “social and political explosions” Kerry feared; if anything, it contributed to them.
  • CAFTA: In 2005, then-U.S. Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) argued for the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) by saying: “Hugo Chavez moves Venezuela closer and closer to Castro every day. These regimes tend to work to spread their brutal methods and totalitarian philosophies, trying to infect the rest of Latin America and we simply cannot let them succeed. … By linking [Central America’s] economies with democratic capitalism, CAFTA will help gird these nations against the threats at their door.” Soon after CAFTA took effect, most CAFTA nations established close economic and political ties with Venezuela – the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua all signed pacts with Venezuela to receive subsidized oil soon after CAFTA took effect.
  • Colombia FTA: In 2011, then-U.S. Rep. Geoff Davis (R-Ky.) pushed for passage of the Colombia FTA by arguing, “The trade agreement with Colombia will advance our national security interests by providing Colombians with alternatives to the drug trade.” Davis’ argument directly contradicts that of Colombia’s own Minister of Agriculture. Before the FTA was passed, the minister predicted that if the deal took effect, Colombian farmers would be unable to compete with an FTA-enabled influx of subsidized U.S. crops and “would have no more than three options: migration to the cities or other countries (especially the United States or bordering countries), leaving to work in drug cultivation zones, or affiliating with illegal armed groups.” In August 2013, thousands of Colombian farmers, facing falling incomes and displacement, blocked highways, launched a national strike and called for the repeal of the FTA.

“The TPP should be debated on the merits of its actual provisions and their likely outcomes, not on the basis of rehashed foreign policy talking points and national security hyperbole that have proved false in the past and that bear little connection to the actual TPP text,” said Wallach. 

Categories: Planet Not For Sale

Colombia's Anti-Union Violence Remains Rampant after Three Years of the FTA-Enabling Labor Action Plan

Eyes on Trade - 8 April, 2014 - 14:57

Three years ago, the Obama administration signed a Labor Action Plan (LAP) with the Colombian government, promising that it would help rectify rampant labor rights abuses in Colombia, a country in which more than 3,000 unionists have been murdered since 1977.

Six months after its announcement, the LAP served as a fig leaf for the controversial Colombia “free trade” agreement (FTA), enabling the deal’s passage in the U.S. Congress. Trying to fend off criticism for pitting U.S. workers against Colombian workers who faced widespread labor abuses, the few Democratic members of Congress who voted for the deal pointed to the LAP as a solution to Colombia's labor rights crisis.  

Unions and congressional labor rights defenders in Colombia and the United States warned at the time of the FTA’s passage that the LAP would fail to alter the on-the-ground reality of anti-union repression. 

Sadly, they were right. 

In the three years since the LAP was unveiled, 73 Colombian unionists have been murdered, according to a report released today by Colombia’s National Union School, a group recognized by the LAP as an authoritative source of monitoring data. There were four more unionist murders in 2013 than in 2012.

Colombia’s workers have also endured 31 murder attempts and 953 death threats since the LAP was announced.  These crimes have not resulted in any captures, trials, or convictions. The overall impunity rate for unionist murders from 1977 through the present is 87%, while impunity for anti-union death threats stands at 99.9%. 

Colombia’s unions and the National Union School conclude that the decision to sign the LAP “was taken by the Colombian government as a step toward unfreezing the FTA with the United States rather than as an institutional mechanism to promote real protection of the labor and union rights that Colombian workers have lacked for so long.”

The same, unfortunately, could probably be said about some members of the U.S. Congress who were more interested in the LAP’s ability to provide political cover for the polemical Colombia FTA than its ability to provide relief to Colombia’s repressed workers.

Other members of Congress who supported the LAP with a sincere desire to improve the labor rights situation in Colombia (despite warnings from on-the-ground experts that the LAP would fail to do so) must feel betrayed by the administration officials who promised the LAP would herald such improvement.

Now the administration is making similar promises in pushing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a sweeping deal with 11 Pacific Rim countries, including Vietnam.  While Vietnam does not share Colombia's history of widespread unionist murders, workers in Vietnam are prohibited from forming independent unions and are paid an average minimum wage of 52 cents per hour. And Vietnam's apparel industry, which could gain greater access to the U.S. market through the TPP, relies on forced labor and child labor.  

Administration officials are arguing, as they did in pushing the LAP and the Colombia FTA, that the TPP will provide an opportunity to curb labor rights abuses in Vietnam. Will the members of Congress who supported the ill-fated LAP once again buy into such promises?  Or will they heed the lesson of the ongoing repression faced by Colombia's workers?  

Categories: Planet Not For Sale

Data Debunk for USTR Froman’s Thursday Committee Hearing

Eyes on Trade - 2 April, 2014 - 20:17

In recent weeks, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman has begun making outlandish claims about past U.S. trade agreements. These claims are not supported by the official  U.S. government trade data. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) recent assertions that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has led to a U.S. trade surplus with Mexico and Canada and that the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA) has increased U.S. manufacturing exports to Korea have been met with incredulity. These pacts’ recent anniversaries have spotlighted how the trade pact model on which the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is premised has led to massive trade deficits.

The premise that NAFTA would improve our trade balance was the basis for NAFTA proponents’ promises that the pact would create U.S. jobs. Many of the same government and industry sources made the same claims to sell the 2011 U.S.-Korea FTA. These pacts’ dismal outcomes – slow or even negative export growth, rising imports and burgeoning trade deficits – are intensifying congressional opposition to Fast Track authority for the TPP.

Rather than altering the trade agreement model to avoid repeating these outcomes, USTR appears intent on trying to change the data. To generate the outlandish claims about NAFTA and the Korea FTA, USTR employs a smorgasbord of data tricks to look out for in Froman’s testimony Thursday before the House Ways and Means Committee:

USTR’s Biggest Distortion: Counting Foreign-Made “Transshipped” Products as U.S. Exports

USTR’s primary data distortion is the decision not to use the official U.S. government trade data provided by the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC).[i] Instead, USTR cites data that include what are called “re-exports.” These are goods made abroad that are simply shipped through the United States en route to a final destination. (The USTR figures would include as U.S. exports goods taken off a truck from Canada in California’s Port of Long Beach then shipped to their final destination in Korea, or goods shipped from China, unloaded in a California port and trucked to Mexico.) Each month, USITC removes re-exports, which do not support U.S. production jobs, from the raw data gathered by the Census Bureau.[ii] But USTR uses the uncorrected data, inflating the actual U.S. export figures.

  • Using the official USITC data, U.S. export growth to countries with which we do not have FTAs has been 30 percent faster than to our FTA partners over the past decade.[iii]
  • The USITC data show U.S. average monthly goods exports to Korea are down 11 percent, imports from Korea have increased and the U.S. average monthly trade deficit with Korea has swelled 47 percent since the enactment of the Korea FTA.[iv] The total U.S. trade deficit with Korea under the FTA’s second year is projected to be $8.6 billion higher than in the year before the deal.[v]  Using the administration’s current export-to-job ratio, this drop in net exports represents the loss of more than 46,000 U.S. jobs.[vi] However since the FTA, foreign-made re-exports passing through the United States en route to Korea are up 13 percent on a monthly average basis.[vii] By counting these foreign goods as U.S. exports, USTR artificially diminishes the dramatic drop in actual U.S. exports to Korea, and errantly claims gains in some sectors.
  • Using the USITC data, the 2013 U.S. goods trade balance with NAFTA nations was a deficit of $177 billion. The combined U.S. goods and services deficit with Mexico and Canada rose (in real, inflation-adjusted terms) from $9.7 billion in 1993 to $139.3 billion in 2012 (the year of comparison used by USTR).[viii] This NAFTA deficit increase of $129.5 billion, or 1,330 percent, represents hundreds of thousands of lost U.S. jobs.[ix]  But adding re-exports has had an increasingly distortionary effect on the true NAFTA deficit, allowing NAFTA proponents to make the 2013 NAFTA goods deficit of $177 billion look less than half as large. By incorporating re-exports, USTR claims in recent press materials: “U.S. total goods and private services trade balance with Canada countries (sic) shifted from a deficit of $2.9 billion in 1993 to roughly balance in 2012 (surplus of $37 million).” But after removing re-exports and adjusting for inflation, the actual total U.S. goods and services trade deficit with Canada increased from $16.9 billion in 1993 to $49.1 billion in 2012. That’s a deficit increase of $32.2 billion, or 191 percent. Similarly, USTR claims: “U.S. total goods and private services trade balance with Mexico countries shifted from a surplus of $4.6 billion in 1993 to a deficit of $49.4 billion in 2012.” But after removing re-exports and adjusting for inflation, the actual total U.S. goods and services trade deficit with Mexico changed from a $7.2 billion surplus in 1993 to a $90.1 billion deficit in 2012. That’s a $97.3 billion decline in the U.S. goods and services trade balance with Mexico.

We Still Have Big Deficits Without Fossil Fuels (And Corn Doesn’t Explain Korea Export Crash)

Despite USTR’s claim that our NAFTA deficit is all about fuel imports, the share of the U.S. NAFTA goods trade deficit that is comprised of petroleum, petroleum products and natural gas has declined under NAFTA, from 77 percent in 1993 to 53 percent in 2013, as we have faced a surge of imported manufactured and agricultural goods.[x] Even if one removes all of these “oil” categories from the balance, the remaining 2013 NAFTA goods trade deficit was $82.9 billion. The combined NAFTA goods and services deficit in 2012 minus oil was $38.3 billion. 

Similarly, with respect to the Korea FTA, USTR claims“[O]ur trade balance has been affected by decreases in corn and fossil fuel exports, changes that are due to the U.S. drought in 2012 and change in Korea’s energy mix.”[xi] But even discounting both corn and fossil fuels, U.S. monthly exports to Korea still fell under the FTA, and the monthly trade deficit with Korea still ballooned.[xii] USTR claims that corn and fossil fuels explain the entirety of the export downfall largely by using an ill-suited 2011 versus 2013 timeframe that omits 10 months of available data and relies on a less relevant pre-FTA baseline. Usage of this less accurate timeframe produces a greater drop in corn and fossil fuel exports, and a smaller decline in exports of all other goods, than has actually occurred under the FTA when comparing the year immediately preceding the FTA with the full set of available post-FTA data. It is not surprising that the dismal FTA record remains without these products, given that of the 15 U.S. sectors that export the most to Korea, 11 of them have experienced export declines under the FTA.[xiii] No product-specific anomalies can explain away what has been a broad-based downfall of U.S. exports to Korea since the pact went into effect.

Not Adjusting for Inflation Counts Increased Prices as an Increase in U.S. Exports

USTR also inflates U.S. exports to Korea by failing to adjust for price inflation. For instance, in its recent Korea FTA news release, USTR claims: “In the two years that this landmark agreement has been in effect … exports of U.S. manufactured goods to Korea have increased … Made-in-America manufactured goods still grew their sales in Korea by 3 percent.”[xiv] Simply adjusting for inflation alone completely erases USTR’s claim of growth in exports of U.S. manufactured goods to Korea under the FTA. That is, even if one includes the distortion of re-exports and uses USTR’s timeframe, U.S. exports to Korea of manufactured goods fell slightly under the FTA after properly accounting for price increases.[xv] If one removes the re-exports (i.e., uses the official USITC data) and looks at the actual months that the FTA has been in effect, U.S. monthly exports to Korea of manufactured goods have fallen 5 percent on average relative to the year before the deal took effect. The United States has lost an average of more than $150 million each month in manufactured goods exports to Korea under the FTA. Manufacturing sectors that provide critical shares of U.S. exports to Korea, such as machinery and computers/electronics, have experienced steep export declines under the FTA (11 percent and 12 percent respectively). In contrast, of the four critical manufacturing sectors that have seen increases in average monthly exports to Korea under the FTA, none has experienced an increase of greater than 2 percent.[xvi]

Cherry-Picking Small-Dollar Winning Sectors, Omitting Major Losers to Distract from Net Losses

In its Korea FTA press release, USTR claims: “U.S. exports of a wide range of agricultural products have seen significant gains. … There were also dramatic increases in U.S. exports of key agricultural products that benefit from reduced tariffs under KORUS, including dairy, wine, beer, soybean oil, fruits and nuts, among many others.”[xvii] But the losses in U.S. meat exports to Korea under the pact alone nearly cancel out the combined export gains for all agricultural sectors that USTR touts as winners (a monthly average loss of $20.1 million in meat exports versus a combined $24.7 million monthly average gain in exports of dairy, wine, beer, soybean oil, fruits and nuts).[xviii]Average monthly exports of all U.S. agricultural products to Korea have fallen 41 percent under the FTA in comparison to the year before the deal. Ignoring this overall result, USTR singles out fruit as a winning agricultural sector under the FTA. But U.S. monthly average exports to Korea of all fruits have increased by just $312,120 under the FTA. This 1 percent increase could hardly be described as “dramatic.” USTR also highlights wine, but U.S. monthly average exports of wine to Korea have increased by just $370,378 under the FTA.[xix] The amount of wine sold in an average six minutes in the United States is worth more ($402,415) than the gain in U.S. wine exports to Korea in an average month under the Korea FTA.[xx]

Such paltry gains pale in comparison to the more than $20 million lost on average under each month of the FTA in U.S. exports to Korea of meat – one of the sectors that the administration promised would be among the biggest beneficiaries of the Korea deal.[xxi] Compared with the exports that would have been achieved at the pre-FTA average monthly level, U.S. meat producers have lost a combined $442 million in poultry, pork and beef exports to Korea in the first 22 months of the FTA.[xxii]Since the FTA, U.S. average monthly exports of poultry to Korea have fallen 39 percent below the pre-FTA monthly average. U.S. poultry exports to Korea have been lower than the pre-FTA monthly level in every single month since the FTA’s implementation. U.S. average monthly exports of pork to Korea since the FTA have fallen 34 percent below the pre-FTA monthly average, and U.S. average monthly exports of beef to Korea have fallen 6 percent below the pre-FTA monthly average.[xxiii]

Omissions and Data Tricks to Hide Massive Auto Sector Deficit Growth Under the Korea FTA

The USTR data on U.S. automotive trade with Korea under the FTA is based on a series of tricks. USTR claims: “Since the Korea agreement went into effect, U.S. exports to Korea are up for our manufactured goods, including autos … overall U.S. passenger vehicle exports to Korea increased 80 percent compared to 2011, and sales of ‘Detroit 3’ vehicles are up 40 percent.”[xxiv] In fact, exports to Korea of U.S.-produced Fords, Chryslers and General Motors vehicles increased by just 3,400 vehicles from 2011 to 2013.[xxv]  But given that pre-FTA exports of “Detroit 3” vehicles was also tiny – 8,252 vehicles – USTR can express the small increase of 3,400 cars as a “40 percent” gain. Meanwhile, 125,000 more Korean-produced Hyundais and Kias were imported and sold in the United States in 2013 (after the FTA) than in 2011 (before the FTA), when Hyundai and Kia imports already topped 1.1 million vehicles.[xxvi]

And USTR’s claim of an “80 percent” rise in passenger vehicle exports, in addition to being inflated by increases in re-exports and prices, omits the export of auto parts, which constitute the majority of the value of U.S. automotive exports to Korea. U.S. average monthly exports of auto parts to Korea have fallen 12 percent under the FTA, offsetting much of the rise in passenger vehicle exports.[xxvii] After including auto parts, excluding foreign-made re-exports, using the more FTA-relevant timeframe and adjusting for inflation, U.S. average monthly automotive exports to Korea have increased by only 12 percent under the FTA, while average monthly automotive imports from Korea have risen by 19 percent.

The disparity is even starker in dollar terms: While U.S. average monthly automotive exports to Korea under the FTA have been $12 million higher than the pre-FTA monthly average, average monthly automotive imports from Korea have soared by $263 million under the deal. The tiny gains in U.S. exports have been swamped by a surge in auto imports from Korea that the administration promised would not occur because of its additional FTA auto sector measure negotiated in 2011. In January 2014, monthly automotive imports from Korea topped $2 billion for the first time on record. The post-FTA flood of automotive imports has provoked a 19 percent increase in the average monthly U.S. auto trade deficit with Korea.[xxviii]

Using a Selective Time Frame to Measure the Outcomes of the Korea FTA

Rather than compare the post-Korea-FTA period to the 12 months prior to the FTA’s implementation (i.e., April 2011 through March 2012), USTR uses calendar year 2011 as a baseline. This means that USTR omits data from the three months immediately prior to the FTA’s 2012 implementation (January through March 2012) and replaces it with data from the same three months in 2011. This difference matters, since U.S. exports to Korea in the first three months of 2011 were 9 percent lower than in the first three months of 2012, giving USTR a lower baseline of comparison that makes the downfall in U.S. exports look less severe than if using the three most recent pre-FTA months.[xxix] In addition, USTR uses only calendar year 2013 to assess the FTA’s record, omitting 10 months of available post-FTA data (April through December 2012 and January 2014). While a comparison between 2011 and 2013 could serve as a second-best approximation in the absence of more precise data, the more FTA-relevant monthly data is readily available.

 

[i] USITC data can be found at U.S. International Trade Commission, “Interactive Tariff and Trade DataWeb.” Available at: http://dataweb.usitc.gov/.

[ii] Census Bureau data can be found at U.S. Census Bureau, “U.S. International Trade Data,” U.S. Department of Commerce. Available at: http://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/data/.

[iii] U.S. International Trade Commission, “Interactive Tariff and Trade DataWeb,” accessed February 11, 2014. Available at: http://dataweb.usitc.gov/. The statistic is a comparison of the average annual growth rate of the combined inflation-adjusted exports of all non-FTA partner countries versus that of all FTA partner countries from 2004 through 2013 (adjustments have been made to account for the changes in these two categories as  non-FTA partners have become FTA partners). All data in this memo is inflation-adjusted according to the CPI-U-RS index of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (which provides indices up through 2012) and the online inflation calculator of the U.S. Bureau of Labor of Statistics (which provides an approximate index for 2013). U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Consumer Price Index Research Series Using Current Methods (CPI-U-RS),” U.S. Department of Labor, updated March 29, 2013. Available at: http://www.bls.gov/cpi/cpiursai1978_2012.pdf.  U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “CPI Inflation Calculator,” U.S. Department of Labor, accessed March 10, 2014. Available at: http://www.bls.gov/data/inflation_calculator.htm.

[iv] In this paragraph and throughout, figures concerning average monthly trade levels with Korea compare data from the year before the FTA’s implementation and from the 22 post-implementation months for which data are available. U.S. International Trade Commission, “Interactive Tariff and Trade DataWeb,” accessed March 10, 2014.  Available at: http://dataweb.usitc.gov/.

[v] The projection for export losses under the FTA’s first two years assumes that trends during the FTA’s first 22 months continue for the remaining two months for which data are not yet available. U.S. International Trade Commission, “Interactive Tariff and Trade DataWeb,” accessed March 10, 2014.  Available at: http://dataweb.usitc.gov/.

[vi] Michael Froman, “2014 Trade Policy Agenda and 2013 Annual Report of the President of the United States on the Trade Agreements Program,” Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, March 2014, at 2. Available at: http://www.ustr.gov/sites/default/files/2014%20Trade%20Policy%20Agenda%20and%202013%20Annual%20Report.pdf.    

[vii] U.S. International Trade Commission, “Interactive Tariff and Trade DataWeb,” accessed March 10, 2014.  Available at: http://dataweb.usitc.gov/.

[viii] Goods trade data in this bullet point come from U.S. International Trade Commission, “Interactive Tariff and Trade Dataweb,” accessed February 20, 2014. Available at: http://dataweb.usitc.gov. Services trade data in this bullet point come from U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, “International Data: Table 12: U.S. International Transactions, by Area,” accessed February 20, 2014. Available at: http://www.bea.gov/iTable/iTable.cfm?ReqID=6&step=1#reqid=6&step=1&isuri=1.

[ix] See Robert Scott, “Heading South: U.S.-Mexico trade and job displacement after NAFTA,” Economic Policy Institute, May 3, 2011. Available at: http://www.epi.org/publication/heading_south_u-s-mexico_trade_and_job_displacement_after_nafta1/.

[x] Trade in petroleum, petroleum products and natural gas is defined as NAICS 2111 and 3241 for data since 1997 – when NAICS replaced the SIC classification system – and SIC 131, 291, 295, and 299 for data before 1997.

[xi] Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, “U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement Shows Strong Results on Second Anniversary,” USTR press release, March 12, 2014. Available at: http://www.ustr.gov/about-us/press-office/press-releases/2014/March/US-Korea-Free-Trade-Agreement-Shows-Strong-Results-on-Second-Anniversary.

[xii] Corn is defined as NAICS 111150 and fossil fuels are defined as NAICS 211111, 211112, 212112 and 212113. U.S. International Trade Commission, “Interactive Tariff and Trade DataWeb,” accessed March 10, 2014.  Available at: http://dataweb.usitc.gov/.

[xiii] U.S. International Trade Commission, “Interactive Tariff and Trade DataWeb,” accessed March 10, 2014.  Available at: http://dataweb.usitc.gov/.

[xiv] Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, “U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement Shows Strong Results on Second Anniversary,” USTR press release, March 12, 2014. Available at: http://www.ustr.gov/about-us/press-office/press-releases/2014/March/US-Korea-Free-Trade-Agreement-Shows-Strong-Results-on-Second-Anniversary.

[xv] U.S. International Trade Commission, “Interactive Tariff and Trade DataWeb,” accessed March 10, 2014.  Available at: http://dataweb.usitc.gov/.

[xvi] U.S. International Trade Commission, “Interactive Tariff and Trade DataWeb,” accessed March 10, 2014.  Available at: http://dataweb.usitc.gov/.

[xvii] Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, “U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement Shows Strong Results on Second Anniversary,” USTR press release, March 12, 2014. Available at: http://www.ustr.gov/about-us/press-office/press-releases/2014/March/US-Korea-Free-Trade-Agreement-Shows-Strong-Results-on-Second-Anniversary.

[xviii] “Meat” includes beef (defined as SITC 011), pork (defined as SITC 0122, 0161 and 0175) and poultry (defined as SITC 0123 and 0174). Dairy is defined as NAICS 2111511, 311512, 311513, 311514 and 311520. Wine is defined as NAICS 312130. Beer is defined as NAICS 312120. Soybean oil is defined as NAICS 311222 and 311224. Fruits are defined as NAICS 11310, 11320, 111331, 111332, 111333, 111334 and 111339. Nuts are defined as NAICS 111335 and 111992. U.S. International Trade Commission, “Interactive Tariff and Trade DataWeb,” accessed March 21, 2014.  Available at: http://dataweb.usitc.gov/.

[xix] Fruits are defined as NAICS 11310, 11320, 111331, 111332, 111333, 111334 and 111339. Wine is defined as NAICS 312130. U.S. International Trade Commission, “Interactive Tariff and Trade DataWeb,” accessed March 10, 2014.  Available at: http://dataweb.usitc.gov/.

[xx] The statistic is based on an estimated $34.6 billion in wine sales in the United States in 2012, adjusted for inflation. The Wine Institute, “2012 California and U.S. Wine Sales,” 2013, accessed March 21, 2014. Available at: https://www.wineinstitute.org/resources/statistics/article697.

[xxi] “Meat” includes beef (defined as SITC 011), pork (defined as SITC 0122, 0161 and 0175) and poultry (defined as SITC 0123 and 0174). Dairy is defined as NAICS 2111511, 311512, 311513, 311514 and 311520. Wine is defined as NAICS 312130. Beer is defined as NAICS 312120. Soybean oil is defined as NAICS 311222 and 311224. Fruits are defined as NAICS 11310, 11320, 111331, 111332, 111333, 111334 and 111339. Nuts are defined as NAICS 111335 and 111992. U.S. International Trade Commission, “Interactive Tariff and Trade DataWeb,” accessed March 21, 2014.  Available at: http://dataweb.usitc.gov/.

[xxii] U.S. International Trade Commission, “Interactive Tariff and Trade DataWeb,” accessed March 10, 2014.  Available at: http://dataweb.usitc.gov/.

[xxiii] U.S. International Trade Commission, “Interactive Tariff and Trade DataWeb,” accessed March 10, 2014.  Available at: http://dataweb.usitc.gov/.

[xxiv] Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, “U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement Shows Strong Results on Second Anniversary,” USTR press release, March 12, 2014. Available at: http://www.ustr.gov/about-us/press-office/press-releases/2014/March/US-Korea-Free-Trade-Agreement-Shows-Strong-Results-on-Second-Anniversary.

[xxv] Korea Automobile Importers & Distributors Association, “New Registration,” 2014, accessed March 10, 2014. Available at: http://www.kaida.co.kr/en/statistics/NewRegistList.do.

[xxvi] Timothy Cain, “Hyundai-Kia Sales Figures,” GoodCarBadCar.net, 2014, accessed March 10, 2014. Available at: http://www.goodcarbadcar.net/2012/10/hyundai-kia-group-sales-figures.html.

[xxvii] Passenger vehicles are defined as code 300 and 301 in the one-digit End Use classification system, while auto parts are defined as 302. U.S. International Trade Commission, “Interactive Tariff and Trade DataWeb,” accessed March 10, 2014.  Available at: http://dataweb.usitc.gov/.

[xxviii] Total automotive exports and imports are defined as code 3 in the one-digit End Use classification system. U.S. International Trade Commission, “Interactive Tariff and Trade DataWeb,” accessed March 10, 2014.  Available at: http://dataweb.usitc.gov/.

[xxix] U.S. International Trade Commission, “Interactive Tariff and Trade DataWeb,” accessed March 10, 2014.  Available at: http://dataweb.usitc.gov/.

Categories: Planet Not For Sale

DECLARACIÓN sobre NAMA

Our World Is Not For Sale - 29 April, 2009 - 20:09
Currently accepting signatories:  Accept signatories AttachmentSize OWINFS_NAMA_final_es.zip7.76 KB

DECLARACIÓN sobre NAMA
Red Nuestro Mundo No Está en Venta (OWINFS)

¡No permitamos que la OMC destruya las industrias de los países en desarrollo y subaste nuestros recursos naturales!

Mucha gente sabe que la Organización Mundial del Comercio (OMC)
abre los mercados de los servicios y la agricultura con efectos
negativos para los agricultores, los servicios públicos y el
medioambiente en todo el mundo. Pero la OMC ahora quiere poner a la
venta el resto del planeta, a través de un nuevo acuerdo sobre Acceso a
los Mercados para los Productos No Agrícolas (conocido como NAMA por su
sigla en inglés) que se está negociando actualmente como parte de la
‘Ronda Doha’ de negociaciones comerciales, y mediante el cual los
gobiernos pretenden liberalizar todos los sectores restantes de la vida económica de nuestras sociedades.

El acuerdo NAMA contiene propuestas que restringirían severamente
la capacidad de los gobiernos para ejecutar políticas nacionales de
interés público y por el bien común, incluso políticas diseñadas para
apoyar a los productores de los países del Sur generalmente más débiles
y de menor porte. También podría obligar a los países que aplican los
aranceles más altos (es decir, la mayoría de los países en desarrollo)
a realizar los recortes más profundos y los mayores compromisos, aun
cuando eso podría debilitar a industrias y sectores económicos clave en
esos países. Si a esto se le suma el hecho que la OMC efectivamente
‘encierra’ sin salida a los países mediante estos acuerdos de libre
comercio, queda muy claro que el NAMA representa una amenaza muy grande
para los países que ya están bregando por desarrollar sus economías y
sortear la carga injusta e insostenible de la deuda externa.

Nosotros, las organizaciones abajo firmantes, estamos unidos en
oposición a este nuevo intento de abrir mercados para beneficio de las
empresas transnacionales y a costa de la pequeña y mediana industria y
productores, las economías y culturas locales y el medioambiente. Hay
que frenar las propuestas de NAMA y llevar a cabo estudios exhaustivos
sobre los potenciales efectos sociales, ambientales, sobre el empleo y
en materia de desarrollo y equidad de género.

Por eso exhortamos a los gobiernos a:

  • Detener las negociaciones sobre el NAMA y acordar al
    realización de una revisión exhaustiva e independiente acerca de los
    efectos potenciales del NAMA para el desarrollo económico, la
    diversificación productiva industrial de los países en desarrollo, el
    medioambiente y el bienestar social (incluidos empleo, salud y equidad
    de género);
  • Reconocer y garantizar el espacio político
    necesario y las flexibilidades con que deben contar los gobiernos,
    preservando su derecho a emplear herramientas políticas, incluso
    medidas comerciales cuyo fin sea generar economías justas y
    sustentables, proteger y promover el empleo, el bienestar social, la
    salud y el medioambiente al tiempo que se garantiza la participación de
    la ciudadanía;
  • Fomentar la conservación y el manejo
    sustentable de los recursos naturales incluso mediante la decisión de
    frenar la liberalización del comercio de bienes tales como los bosques,
    los peces, el petróleo, el gas, los metales y los minerales.  

Efectos del NAMA en la industria y el desempleo de los países en desarrollo

  • El recorte general y acelerado de los aranceles de
    importación y otras medidas propuestas en el marco del acuerdo sobre el
    NAMA amenazan con impedir la industrialización de los países en
    desarrollo, a los cuales no se les permitiría proteger a sus
    vulnerables industrias locales contra la competencia de  grandes
    empresas extranjeras transnacionales que pueden producir masivamente
    grandes cantidades de productos baratos (siendo que los países hoy
    industrializados emplearon frugalmente medidas de comercio cuando sus
    propias industrias nacionales necesitaban ese tipo de apoyo para
    desarrollarse).
  • El cierre  de industrias y pequeños
    talleres locales como consecuencia de la presión que suponen las
    importaciones a precios más bajos llevaría a incrementar el desempleo.
    La liberalización del comercio impuesta por el FMI-Banco Mundial 
    mediante sus programas de ajuste estructural ya tuvo efectos
    desastrosos para el empleo en África, Asia y algunos países de América
    Latina.
  • Combinada con la des-industrialización, la
    liberalización de los recursos naturales prevista por el NAMA (que
    incluiría la pesca, la minería y los bosques y la silvicultura) también
    podría empujar a los países a una mayor dependencia de la exportación
    de materias primas que generan relativamente pocas ganancias, en lugar
    de contribuir a la diversificación de sus economías.  Cualquier aumento
    del volumen de captura en la pesca sería especialmente dañino, ya que
    conduciría a índices crecientes de desempleo, pobreza y desnutrición
    para los miles de millones de personas que dependen de los recursos
    marinos para su alimentación y sustento.
  • Los países en
    desarrollo también se verían privados de los ingresos que hoy perciben
    por concepto de aranceles comerciales (impuestos aduaneros). Esto es de
    importancia capital, ya que muchos de esos gobiernos dependen en buena
    medida de esos ingresos para costear servicios sociales esenciales.
  • El acuerdo sobre el NAMA empujaría asimismo a los países en desarrollo
    a una situación en la que tendrían que importar más, al mismo tiempo
    que exportarían menos a consecuencia de la des-industrialización,
    generándoles así crecientes déficit comercial y un deterioro sostenido
    de su balanza externa de pagos.

Explotación creciente de recursos naturales

Las negociaciones sobre el NAMA representan una seria amenaza
general al medioambiente, y la mayoría de los países ignoran los
efectos ambientales y sociales adversos que supondría potencialmente la
liberalización del comercio en materias primas. Todos los
recursos naturales están incluidos en las negociaciones del NAMA –y
algunos sectores como la pesca y la minería de oro, de diamantes y
aluminio incluso están propuestos para su liberalización completa.

  • La liberalización creciente de las materias primas podría
    conllevar mayor explotación y comercio de recursos naturales escasos, y
    privar a los gobiernos de su capacidad para emplear medidas comerciales
    a fin de administrar sus reservas de manera sustentable y por el bien
    común.
  • El acuerdo sobre el NAMA podría restringir el uso
    de aranceles u otras herramientas comerciales en manos de los gobiernos
    para preservar los medios de sustento de millones de pescadores
    artesanales en todo el mundo y garantizar que los pueblos de los países
    en desarrollo puedan seguir contando con la pesca como fuente
    importante de proteínas.
  • Los gobiernos tendrían menos
    espacio para utilizar medidas comerciales con el fin de proteger
    poblaciones de peces en peligro de extinción. Al mismo tiempo, la
    liberalización del comercio podría fortalecer aún más a las industrias
    de procesamiento de pescado y acuicultura, sin tener en cuenta los
    impactos sobre los derechos humanos y la contaminación de los ambientes
    costeros.

Leyes nacionales y espacio para la formulación de políticas en riesgo

Muchos gobiernos están usando el acuerdo sobre el NAMA y otras
negociaciones en el seno de la OMC para atacar legítimas normas no
comerciales de protección del medioambiente, el bienestar social y la
salud en todas partes. Ellos sostienen que estas llamadas “barreras al
comercio” obstruyen de algún modo las exportaciones de las empresas
transnacionales. Hay leyes sobre alimentos y medicinas, pesca, madera y
petróleo, eficiencia energética, pruebas químicas, reciclaje y normas
de calidad de las industrias electrónica y automotriz que han sido
colocadas en la lista como parte de las negociaciones de NAMA,
aparentemente por orden directa de las empresas que seguramente se
beneficiarán con su eliminación. Este ataque concertado a las
reglamentaciones hace caso omiso de la necesidad de utilizar normas
legales para proteger y promover la salud y bienestar de la ciudadanía,
conservar los recursos naturales y frenar el cambio climático.

Conclusiones 

Las negociaciones sobre el NAMA se están llevando a un ritmo tan
veloz que impide la participación efectiva de los gobiernos con menos
recursos y personal, y más aún que estos realicen los estudios
necesarios sobre el impacto potencial de un nuevo acuerdo de NAMA en
sus economías, los trabajadores y el medioambiente. Aun cuando los
Países Menos Adelantados disponen de algunas exoneraciones limitadas en
la actual ronda de negociaciones, ellas no son suficientes para
garantizar su desarrollo futuro.

En realidad, lo que se pretende imponer ahora es exactamente
contrapuesto al acuerdo para el “desarrollo” que  le vendieron a los
países en desarrollo en la Conferencia Ministerial de la OMC en Doha en
2001. En esa reunión, a los países en desarrollo se les prometió que no
tendrían que ceder tanto como los países más ricos. Pero en las
negociaciones actuales sobre el NAMA se les está exigiendo realizar
mayores “ajustes” y adaptaciones que a los países altamente
industrializados, y tomar riesgos mucho mayores respecto de su
producción actual y sus perspectivas futuras de desarrollo. Los
ministros de comercio de los países del África, el Caribe y el Pacífico
(ACP) ya han expresado claramente que les “preocupa que las
propuestas contenidas en el texto de Derbez y su anexo sobre [los
textos de negociación de] el NAMA … profundizarán aún más la crisis de
la des-industrialización y acentuarán el desempleo y la crisis de la
pobreza en nuestros países
”. Sin embargo, a pesar de estas
declaraciones de evidente preocupación, sus puntos de vista han sido
descaradamente ignorados por los países industrializados y los
responsables de forzar el avance de estas propuestas extremas. No se
puede permitir que esta situación continúe.  Por eso exhortamos a los
gobiernos a:

  • Detener las negociaciones sobre el NAMA y acordar al
    realización de una revisión exhaustiva e independiente acerca de los
    efectos potenciales del NAMA para el desarrollo económico, la
    diversificación productiva industrial de los países en desarrollo, el
    medioambiente y el bienestar social (incluidos empleo, salud y equidad
    de género);
  • Reconocer y garantizar el espacio político
    necesario y las flexibilidades con que deben contar los gobiernos,
    preservando su derecho a emplear herramientas políticas, incluso
    medidas comerciales cuyo fin sea generar economías justas y
    sustentables, proteger y promover el empleo, el bienestar social, la
    salud y el medioambiente al tiempo que se garantiza la participación de
    la ciudadanía;
  • Fomentar la conservación y el manejo
    sustentable de los recursos naturales incluso mediante la decisión de
    frenar la liberalización del comercio de bienes tales como los bosques,
    los peces, el petróleo, el gas, los metales y los minerales.
Categories: Planet Not For Sale

DECLARACIÓN sobre NAMA

Our World Is Not For Sale - 29 April, 2009 - 20:06
Currently accepting signatories:  Accept signatories

DECLARACIÓN sobre NAMA
Red Nuestro Mundo No Está en Venta (OWINFS)

¡No permitamos que la OMC destruya las industrias de los países en desarrollo y subaste nuestros recursos naturales!

Mucha gente sabe que la Organización Mundial del Comercio (OMC)
abre los mercados de los servicios y la agricultura con efectos
negativos para los agricultores, los servicios públicos y el
medioambiente en todo el mundo. Pero la OMC ahora quiere poner a la
venta el resto del planeta, a través de un nuevo acuerdo sobre Acceso a
los Mercados para los Productos No Agrícolas (conocido como NAMA por su
sigla en inglés) que se está negociando actualmente como parte de la
‘Ronda Doha’ de negociaciones comerciales, y mediante el cual los
gobiernos pretenden liberalizar todos los sectores restantes de la vida económica de nuestras sociedades.

El acuerdo NAMA contiene propuestas que restringirían severamente
la capacidad de los gobiernos para ejecutar políticas nacionales de
interés público y por el bien común, incluso políticas diseñadas para
apoyar a los productores de los países del Sur generalmente más débiles
y de menor porte. También podría obligar a los países que aplican los
aranceles más altos (es decir, la mayoría de los países en desarrollo)
a realizar los recortes más profundos y los mayores compromisos, aun
cuando eso podría debilitar a industrias y sectores económicos clave en
esos países. Si a esto se le suma el hecho que la OMC efectivamente
‘encierra’ sin salida a los países mediante estos acuerdos de libre
comercio, queda muy claro que el NAMA representa una amenaza muy grande
para los países que ya están bregando por desarrollar sus economías y
sortear la carga injusta e insostenible de la deuda externa.

Nosotros, las organizaciones abajo firmantes, estamos unidos en
oposición a este nuevo intento de abrir mercados para beneficio de las
empresas transnacionales y a costa de la pequeña y mediana industria y
productores, las economías y culturas locales y el medioambiente. Hay
que frenar las propuestas de NAMA y llevar a cabo estudios exhaustivos
sobre los potenciales efectos sociales, ambientales, sobre el empleo y
en materia de desarrollo y equidad de género.

Por eso exhortamos a los gobiernos a:

  • Detener las negociaciones sobre el NAMA y acordar al
    realización de una revisión exhaustiva e independiente acerca de los
    efectos potenciales del NAMA para el desarrollo económico, la
    diversificación productiva industrial de los países en desarrollo, el
    medioambiente y el bienestar social (incluidos empleo, salud y equidad
    de género);
  • Reconocer y garantizar el espacio político
    necesario y las flexibilidades con que deben contar los gobiernos,
    preservando su derecho a emplear herramientas políticas, incluso
    medidas comerciales cuyo fin sea generar economías justas y
    sustentables, proteger y promover el empleo, el bienestar social, la
    salud y el medioambiente al tiempo que se garantiza la participación de
    la ciudadanía;
  • Fomentar la conservación y el manejo
    sustentable de los recursos naturales incluso mediante la decisión de
    frenar la liberalización del comercio de bienes tales como los bosques,
    los peces, el petróleo, el gas, los metales y los minerales.  

Efectos del NAMA en la industria y el desempleo de los países en desarrollo

  • El recorte general y acelerado de los aranceles de
    importación y otras medidas propuestas en el marco del acuerdo sobre el
    NAMA amenazan con impedir la industrialización de los países en
    desarrollo, a los cuales no se les permitiría proteger a sus
    vulnerables industrias locales contra la competencia de  grandes
    empresas extranjeras transnacionales que pueden producir masivamente
    grandes cantidades de productos baratos (siendo que los países hoy
    industrializados emplearon frugalmente medidas de comercio cuando sus
    propias industrias nacionales necesitaban ese tipo de apoyo para
    desarrollarse).
  • El cierre  de industrias y pequeños
    talleres locales como consecuencia de la presión que suponen las
    importaciones a precios más bajos llevaría a incrementar el desempleo.
    La liberalización del comercio impuesta por el FMI-Banco Mundial 
    mediante sus programas de ajuste estructural ya tuvo efectos
    desastrosos para el empleo en África, Asia y algunos países de América
    Latina.
  • Combinada con la des-industrialización, la
    liberalización de los recursos naturales prevista por el NAMA (que
    incluiría la pesca, la minería y los bosques y la silvicultura) también
    podría empujar a los países a una mayor dependencia de la exportación
    de materias primas que generan relativamente pocas ganancias, en lugar
    de contribuir a la diversificación de sus economías.  Cualquier aumento
    del volumen de captura en la pesca sería especialmente dañino, ya que
    conduciría a índices crecientes de desempleo, pobreza y desnutrición
    para los miles de millones de personas que dependen de los recursos
    marinos para su alimentación y sustento.
  • Los países en
    desarrollo también se verían privados de los ingresos que hoy perciben
    por concepto de aranceles comerciales (impuestos aduaneros). Esto es de
    importancia capital, ya que muchos de esos gobiernos dependen en buena
    medida de esos ingresos para costear servicios sociales esenciales.
  • El acuerdo sobre el NAMA empujaría asimismo a los países en desarrollo
    a una situación en la que tendrían que importar más, al mismo tiempo
    que exportarían menos a consecuencia de la des-industrialización,
    generándoles así crecientes déficit comercial y un deterioro sostenido
    de su balanza externa de pagos.

Explotación creciente de recursos naturales

Las negociaciones sobre el NAMA representan una seria amenaza
general al medioambiente, y la mayoría de los países ignoran los
efectos ambientales y sociales adversos que supondría potencialmente la
liberalización del comercio en materias primas. Todos los
recursos naturales están incluidos en las negociaciones del NAMA –y
algunos sectores como la pesca y la minería de oro, de diamantes y
aluminio incluso están propuestos para su liberalización completa.

  • La liberalización creciente de las materias primas podría
    conllevar mayor explotación y comercio de recursos naturales escasos, y
    privar a los gobiernos de su capacidad para emplear medidas comerciales
    a fin de administrar sus reservas de manera sustentable y por el bien
    común.
  • El acuerdo sobre el NAMA podría restringir el uso
    de aranceles u otras herramientas comerciales en manos de los gobiernos
    para preservar los medios de sustento de millones de pescadores
    artesanales en todo el mundo y garantizar que los pueblos de los países
    en desarrollo puedan seguir contando con la pesca como fuente
    importante de proteínas.
  • Los gobiernos tendrían menos
    espacio para utilizar medidas comerciales con el fin de proteger
    poblaciones de peces en peligro de extinción. Al mismo tiempo, la
    liberalización del comercio podría fortalecer aún más a las industrias
    de procesamiento de pescado y acuicultura, sin tener en cuenta los
    impactos sobre los derechos humanos y la contaminación de los ambientes
    costeros.

Leyes nacionales y espacio para la formulación de políticas en riesgo

Muchos gobiernos están usando el acuerdo sobre el NAMA y otras
negociaciones en el seno de la OMC para atacar legítimas normas no
comerciales de protección del medioambiente, el bienestar social y la
salud en todas partes. Ellos sostienen que estas llamadas “barreras al
comercio” obstruyen de algún modo las exportaciones de las empresas
transnacionales. Hay leyes sobre alimentos y medicinas, pesca, madera y
petróleo, eficiencia energética, pruebas químicas, reciclaje y normas
de calidad de las industrias electrónica y automotriz que han sido
colocadas en la lista como parte de las negociaciones de NAMA,
aparentemente por orden directa de las empresas que seguramente se
beneficiarán con su eliminación. Este ataque concertado a las
reglamentaciones hace caso omiso de la necesidad de utilizar normas
legales para proteger y promover la salud y bienestar de la ciudadanía,
conservar los recursos naturales y frenar el cambio climático.

Conclusiones 

Las negociaciones sobre el NAMA se están llevando a un ritmo tan
veloz que impide la participación efectiva de los gobiernos con menos
recursos y personal, y más aún que estos realicen los estudios
necesarios sobre el impacto potencial de un nuevo acuerdo de NAMA en
sus economías, los trabajadores y el medioambiente. Aun cuando los
Países Menos Adelantados disponen de algunas exoneraciones limitadas en
la actual ronda de negociaciones, ellas no son suficientes para
garantizar su desarrollo futuro.

En realidad, lo que se pretende imponer ahora es exactamente
contrapuesto al acuerdo para el “desarrollo” que  le vendieron a los
países en desarrollo en la Conferencia Ministerial de la OMC en Doha en
2001. En esa reunión, a los países en desarrollo se les prometió que no
tendrían que ceder tanto como los países más ricos. Pero en las
negociaciones actuales sobre el NAMA se les está exigiendo realizar
mayores “ajustes” y adaptaciones que a los países altamente
industrializados, y tomar riesgos mucho mayores respecto de su
producción actual y sus perspectivas futuras de desarrollo. Los
ministros de comercio de los países del África, el Caribe y el Pacífico
(ACP) ya han expresado claramente que les “preocupa que las
propuestas contenidas en el texto de Derbez y su anexo sobre [los
textos de negociación de] el NAMA … profundizarán aún más la crisis de
la des-industrialización y acentuarán el desempleo y la crisis de la
pobreza en nuestros países
”. Sin embargo, a pesar de estas
declaraciones de evidente preocupación, sus puntos de vista han sido
descaradamente ignorados por los países industrializados y los
responsables de forzar el avance de estas propuestas extremas. No se
puede permitir que esta situación continúe.  Por eso exhortamos a los
gobiernos a:

  • Detener las negociaciones sobre el NAMA y acordar al
    realización de una revisión exhaustiva e independiente acerca de los
    efectos potenciales del NAMA para el desarrollo económico, la
    diversificación productiva industrial de los países en desarrollo, el
    medioambiente y el bienestar social (incluidos empleo, salud y equidad
    de género);
  • Reconocer y garantizar el espacio político
    necesario y las flexibilidades con que deben contar los gobiernos,
    preservando su derecho a emplear herramientas políticas, incluso
    medidas comerciales cuyo fin sea generar economías justas y
    sustentables, proteger y promover el empleo, el bienestar social, la
    salud y el medioambiente al tiempo que se garantiza la participación de
    la ciudadanía;
  • Fomentar la conservación y el manejo
    sustentable de los recursos naturales incluso mediante la decisión de
    frenar la liberalización del comercio de bienes tales como los bosques,
    los peces, el petróleo, el gas, los metales y los minerales.
Categories: Planet Not For Sale