Democrats in Congress are leading on trade. That much is clear. For all the alarmists' (yeah, I'm talking about David Sirota) jumping up and down earlier about how the Democrats selling us down the river by making their trade deal with the Bush administration and how they wanted to keep us in the dark of night about everything, the House has passed nothing in that regard, and today it seems Democrats are not - I repeat, NOT - going to let the Bush administration run roughshots with these "free" trade deals that kill American jobs and allow multinational corporations to enslave people in the third world.
Reuters is reporting that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders have told the White House the following:
- South Korea and Colombia free trade deals are DEAD. The House will not approve them.
- Fast Track authority of the president will expire on Saturday, June 30, and Congress is NOT going to renew it.
Fast Track authority is one of the most insidious surrenders of Congressional power to regulate international commerce to the President, and as of July 1, it will cease to be. I want you all to remember when the bruhaha was going on about the Democrats cutting a deal with the Adminisitration on trade, some of us tried to point out that the Administration did NOT get an assurance that fast track will be renewed and were ridiculed for it by others pointing out reports of the Administration's "hope" that the deal will clear the way for Fast Track. Well, that hope was just squashed.
The trade deal with Colombia was also one of the worst, and it too is now dead.
The U.S.-South Korea free trade agreement due to be signed in Washington on Saturday fails to dismantle nontariff barriers that have long blocked U.S. exports of automobiles and other manufactured goods to South Korea, the Democrats said.
"We cannot support the (pact) as currently negotiated," they said.
A long history in Colombia of deadly violence against trade union members and concerns about the role of paramilitary forces soured that agreement for the Democrats.
"We believe there must first be concrete evidence of sustained results on the ground in Colombia" before Congress votes on the pact, the Democrats said.
The Speaker posted the statement from herself, Majority Leader Hoyer, Ways and Means Chairman Rangel and Senator Carl Levin on her website. They are not taking any prisoners on Colombia:
There is widespread concern in Congress about the level of violence in Colombia, the impunity, the lack of investigations and prosecutions, and the role of the paramilitary. Issues of this nature cannot solely be resolved through language in a trade agreement.
"We believe there must first be concrete evidence of sustained results on the ground in Colombia, and Members of Congress will continue working with all interested parties to help achieve this end before consideration of any FTA. Consequently, we cannot support the Colombia FTA at this time.
The ones Congress will act on? Peru and Panama. But not until they make the necessary changes in their laws to implement those agreements (i.e. provide internationally recognized labor standards). Charlie Rangel will lead a delegation to Peru and Panama to make sure their legislatures do implement it, and
We are hopeful that this trip will lead to the swift passage this fall in Peru and Panama of the necessary legislation to change laws and implement fully the respective agreements, so these agreements can come into effect promptly thereafter.
i.e. Congress will not approve the deals without action from Peru and Panama first.
Today is a good day and a step in the right direction for America's trade policy - it's a step towards making it fairer and more humane. Let's give where credit is due. Thank you, Speaker Pelosi.