Alliance for Democracy

Posted in Investor Protection Clauses, Korea Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA, Sen Ron Wyden by Alliance for Democracy Portland OR on February 5, 2011

President Obama promoted the Bush negotiated NAFTA style Korea (South) Free Trade Agreement during his State of the Union address. He said,  “And last month, we finalized a trade agreement with South Korea that will support at least 70,000 American jobs. This agreement has unprecedented support from business and labor, Democrats and Republicans — and I ask this Congress to pass it as soon as possible.

“Now, before I took office, I made it clear that we would enforce our trade agreements, and that I would only sign deals that keep faith with American workers and promote American jobs. That’s what we did with Korea, and that’s what I intend to do as we pursue agreements with Panama and Colombia and continue our Asia Pacific and global trade talks.”

Note that he said that this agreement would support 70,000, not that that number would be created. He also didn’t say how many jobs would be eliminated as a result of entering into this agreement. And past practice makes us believe that the jobs eliminated will be high paying jobs, while those created will be lower paying.

Also, note that approval of this agreement is the first step toward approval of the agreements with Panama and Columbia.  Panama is noteworthy as a tax haven and Columbia for its violations of international labor law as well as highest level of labor organizer assassinations in the world.

Our major concern with all of these “free trade agreements” continues to be the Investor Protection Clauses which allow a foreign multi-national corporation to sue a host government if they pass a law or regulation deemed by them to impose undue burdens on their profit making abilities.  Unlike domestic corporations which could not sue for this, multi-nationals are established as a special class, allowed to sue a national government even if the law or regulation is enacted by a state or local government.

For a nation like El Salvador such suits can be devastating.  El Salvador passed laws to regulate silver mining within its boundaries when international mining companies planned on opening up 21 new mines, threatening the water supplies of many communities.  Pacific Rim Mining, a Canadian company, sued under CAFTA to either be paid its anticipated profits or to have the law rescinded.  Even if El Salvador is successful (not likely), it still must spend millions of dollars defending itself while its people go hungry and without school and medical services.

Up to now, most suits have been filed against our trading partners.  But this new agreement lays the foundations for numerous suits against the United States.  Korea has a developed economic system with a desire to invest in the United States.  In fact, it already has a lot of investments here.  With each investment and each new law or regulation passed comes the threat of suit a in secret trade tribunal for lost profit.  Our domestic laws, designed to protect us, our jobs and our environment, could be subject to such suits.

Senator Wyden is the chair of the Senate subcommittee on trade.  He will act on the Korea Free Trade Agreement before anyone else in the Senate.  He has stated that his mind is open on this agreement even though he has generally approved of these agreements in the past.

Please see below the form letter he has been sending out to those who inquire as to his position.  Note that he says “Please rest assured that I will continue work to ensure that the U.S. does not enter into any trade agreements that would have a detrimental effect on worker rights, the environment or provide greater rights to foreign investors in the U.S. than to American investors“.

Write him, call him.  Tell him that the foreign investor protection clauses are included in this agreement and that, therefore, he must honor his word from his letter and oppose this agreement now.

His phone number is 503.326-7525.

David Delk | 503.232.5495 | http://www.afd-pdx.org

 

Dear Ms. XXXXX:

 

Thank you for sharing your concerns about international trade.  I appreciate hearing from you.

 

Overall, I believe that free trade, economic engagement and open relations are generally the most effective way to bring about positive changes within a society.  I believe Congress must continue to provide strong guidance to and oversight of the Administration in the negotiating and drafting of trade agreements, and be an active participant in drafting the implementing legislation.  Clearly, Congress must retain its Constitutional rights to review and approve trade agreements.  Congress should also retain its Constitutional right to be engaged in commerce and should include clear guidelines on what our trade agreements must contain on the environment, worker rights and more traditional trade issues.

 

I have long fought for free and fair trade for our nation and region, and I believe those policies have clearly benefited our trade-dependent state.  Please rest assured that I will continue work to ensure that the U.S. does not enter into any trade agreements that would have a detrimental effect on worker rights, the environment or provide greater rights to foreign investors in the U.S. than to American investors, and I have voted to require that the U.S. negotiate provisions in all three areas as part of any new trade accords.  Should further legislation regarding international trade come before me in the Senate, I will be sure to keep your views in mind.

 

Thank you for keeping me apprised of the issues that are important to you.

 

Sincerely,

Ron Wyden
United States Senator
To write to me, go to http://wyden.senate.gov/ and choose the “Contact” link. Please do not reply to this e-mail. Mail sent to this address cannot be answered.

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