Wednesday, June 14, 2006

U.S. Trade Policy hurts the poor: Oxfam

Article from Oxfam International:
Published: 14 June 2006

Oxfam Press Release – 14 June 2006
Oxfam warns Us-Andean trade deals will harm developing countries

The US is pushing “free trade agreements” (FTAs) with the Andean countries of Peru, Colombia and Ecuador that will harm thousands of vulnerable small farmers, block access to affordable medicines and favor foreign investors, according to a new report released today by international agency Oxfam.
The report, “Song of the Sirens,” outlines the negative impacts the proposed agreements will have on millions of people in the Andean region. The US is demanding concessions that could affect the sustainability of development policies and weaken the ongoing process of integration with neighboring countries, Oxfam International says.

Although negotiations with Ecuador have been temporarily suspended, the agreement with Colombia is awaiting final executive approvals and the Peru agreement, already signed by both countries, will be considered by the Peruvian Congress in the coming days and in the US Congress in the coming months.

“Developing countries have been enchanted by the appeal of free-trade agreements, but, much like the song of the Sirens, this attraction is ultimately self-destructive,” said Stephanie Weinberg, trade policy advisor for Oxfam International. “The benefits that an FTA offers Peru, Colombia and Ecuador will be far outweighed by the negative impacts of agricultural dumping, harsh patent rules and deregulated foreign investments.”

Oxfam believes that the Peru and Colombia agreements on agriculture, intellectual property and investment rules would harm the development of these countries. In agriculture, the agreements would dismantle safeguard mechanisms that are vital for food security and the livelihoods of small farmers, while making no attempt to address the unfair dumping of American overproduction.

“The livelihoods of a quarter of the population of these countries, especially the poorest in rural areas, depend on agriculture for their livelihoods,” said Weinberg. “The FTAs pry open the markets of Peru and Colombia without any consideration for the damaging effects of dumped, cheap, subsidized American products.”

On intellectual property, the US has succeeded in extending pharmaceutical patents beyond 20 years, which goes well beyond agreements made at the World Trade Organization. As a consequence, medicine prices in Peru will increase by almost 10% in the first year of the FTA and 100% after 10 years. Colombia will have to spend an extra $940 million a year to buy more expensive medicines and nearly 6 million people will lose access to medicines. The new investment rules in the agreements would also curtail the powers of Andean governments to regulate foreign investment.

“Trade could be the engine to pull millions out of poverty, but the winners of this agreement are American and international companies,” said Weinberg. “In the Andean countries where half the population lives in poverty, this agreement will actually reduce access to affordable medicines and stifle opportunities for development.”

I will be unavailable until July 4. No new posts.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Haiti action


Washington, D.C. - On June 6, 2006, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA)
sent a
letter to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the Appropriations
and the Subcommittee on Foreign Operations Appropriations urging them
not to
cut emergency assistance for Haiti and Liberia. The letter was
signed by 22
members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). The text of the letter

We write as members of the Congressional Black
Caucus to ask you to include $40 million in emergency assistance for
and $50 million in emergency assistance for Liberia in the Conference
for the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2006.
These emergency appropriations were added to the Administration's
supplemental request during congressional consideration.

The Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act, as
passed by the Senate, includes $40 million for Haiti to increase
opportunities; support police, judicial and legal reforms; and address
critical health needs. Both the House and the Senate versions of the
include $50 million for Liberia to facilitate emergency employment
activities; infrastructure development projects; democracy, human
rights and
rule of law programs; and activities to assist with the
demobilization of
ex-rebel combatants and their reintegration into society. None of these
emergency appropriations were included in the Administration's original
request. However, they are essential for the respective development of
these countries.

Both Haiti and Liberia recently held successful
democratic elections. Large numbers of citizens in each of these
proved their commitment to democracy by participating in the
elections and
lining up for hours to vote. Rene Garcia Preval was elected
President of
Haiti on February 7, 2006, during national elections in which more
than 60
percent of registered voters participated. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was
elected President of Liberia on November 8, 2005, in a run-off,
national elections in which 74 percent of registered voters
In addition, President Johnson-Sirleaf is the first woman to be elected
president of any country in Africa.

The populations of Haiti and Liberia have each
suffered tremendously in past years as a result of poverty, political
violence and oppression, and the challenges facing the newly elected
governments of these countries are enormous. They will need the
support and
assistance of the United States to ensure national reconciliation and
development and to improve the lives of their people. Now is the
time for
the United States to provide emergency assistance funds that will
help these
two newly elected governments build a better future for the people they

Therefore, we respectfully urge you to include
$40 million for Haiti and $50 million for Liberia in the Conference
for the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year
2006. We
thank you for your attention to our concerns and look forward to working
with you to promote democracy and development in Haiti and Liberia.


Maxine Waters
Donald Payne
Barbara Lee John
Charles Rangel
Gregory Meeks
Donna Christensen
Eleanor Holmes Norton
Edolphus Towns Elijah
Melvin L. Watt
Sheila Jackson-Lee
Corrine Brown
Kendrick B. Meek
Robert C. "Bobby" Scott Diane Watson

Cynthia McKinney
Chaka Fattah
Major R. Owens Alcee
Juanita Millender-McDonald
Julia Carson

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

DSA position on immigration

DSA NPC Resolution

On The Rights of Undocumented Immigrants

June 2, 2006

Democratic Socialists of America favors granting immediate permanent resident status to all undocumented workers and establishing an expeditious and non-punitive road to citizenship for these workers and their families. We oppose guest worker programs that would help exploit these workers and undercut all workers’ rights to organize and to secure humane wages and working conditions, especially low-wage workers, many of whom are relegated to the bottom-rung of the economy by institutional racism. The burgeoning immigrant rights movement represents a crucial movement for social justice and brings to the forefront of public debate issues central to a democratic and just society.
Legalizing the status of all immigrant workers and their families, as well as providing for a transparent and expeditious road to citizenship, embodies basic democratic socialist principles. First, those who are governed by the laws of a thorough-going democratic society would have a say in making such laws.

Second, all those who contribute meaningful labor to a democratic society, who care for our elderly, our children, and our disabled deserve full membership in our society.

Third, without full legal status, political rights, and a road to citizenship, immigrant workers cannot fight for rights on the job and can be ruthlessly exploited by employers. Threats of deportation for undocumented workers, as well as second-class status in guest worker programs, also restrict the capacity of workers to organize. These policies create a new form of indentured servitude and dependence.

As socialists, we know that “an injury to one is an injury to all.” Thus, the vulnerability of undocumented and guest workers leads not only to the exploitation of their labor, but to the proliferation of low-wage, unsafe, and insecure jobs for all. Employers can more easily discriminate against African-Americans, particularly young men, when there is vulnerable immigrant labor to exploit. Only strong enforcement of anti-discrimination and affirmative action laws, combined with the ability of all workers to unionize and fight for decent wage and working conditions, can yield a full employment economy. The nativist arguments of the Minutemen and others displace anxiety about declining economic opportunities onto the very low-wage workers whose rights in the workplace must be secured if all working people are to improve their livelihoods. Therefore, Democratic Socialists of America militantly opposes HR 4437, the Sensenbrenner bill already passed in the House of Representatives. The proposed legislation, if adopted by Congress, would criminalize all undocumented workers and all who help them. It would lead to mass repression and a likely futile effort to deport 12 million undocumented workers and their families. Such an effort could only be conducted through massive violations of the civil liberties of citizens and legal residents, as well as the undocumented.

DSA also opposes devoting additional resources to militarizing our border. Since the passage of the restrictive 1994 Immigration Reform Act, the federal government has spent more than $30 billion on border enforcement. This has not deterred unauthorized border crossings. It has lined the pockets of ‘coyotes’,who serve the needs of exploitative employers searching for cheap labor, and has led to the cruel, painful deaths of some 4,000 people in the deserts of the Southwest and in the holds of ships.

We also endorse the expansion of opportunities for legal immigration and family unification, and the rapid processing of the backlog of pending visa applications.

While some bills before the Senate offer a path to citizenship for considerable numbers of undocumented workers, their provisions for guest worker programs and increased militarization of our borders violate the principles outlined above.

Further, as socialists we recognize that massive migrations of exploited workers, refugees, and asylum-seekers result from an unjust global political and economic system that works for the benefit of transnational corporations and at the expense of the world’s peoples. Immigration to the United States does not only result from the “pull” of greater economic opportunity. It is also caused by the “push” of growing economic inequality and exploitation in developing societies. The economic destiny of these countries is severely constrained by the power of transnational corporations and international institutions that regulate the global economy in their interests. Much of the mass migration of the past decade from Mexico and Central America is due to NAFTA and other unjust ‘free trade’ agreements. Such agreements have enabled subsidized American agri-business to flood these societies with cheap produce, thus destroying the livelihoods of millions of small farmers. The export-oriented, often capital-intensive form of manufacturing imposed by the IMF, World Bank, and the WTO on these nations also limits the number of good jobs in the urban economy of these developing nations. The same story can be told about African migration to the nations of the European Union.

In their inexorable search for cheap, exploitable wage labor, predominantly United States-owned transnational corporations have eliminated hundreds of thousands of maquiladora jobs in Mexico and moved them to Vietnam and China, where even more repressive states make labor cheaper and more vulnerable still. Thus, the neo-liberal model of corporate globalization, which strives to maximize profitability through ruthless cost-cutting, succeeds in impoverishing labor around the world. It is that impoverishment that drives workers in developing nations to reluctantly seek marginally better life opportunities in advanced industrial nations. Third world impoverishment, and not the influx of its workers, is the problem.

The “push” for mass immigration from the developing world can only be stemmed if these economies are allowed to develop in equitable and internally integrated ways. Such development would require the national and international regulation of corporate power by free trade unions and democratic governments, as well as the democratization of international economic regulatory institutions. Only if the global economy is democratically controlled and structured in the interests of all the world’s peoples can we achieve full rights for working people in all societies.

Judging it by its goals, the immigrant rights movement is the civil rights movement of our generation. Its demand for labor rights for all points to the reality that social justice for working people around the globe can only be achieved through the extension of democratic and labor rights both at home and abroad. Only by building a truly internationalist labor and democratic political movement can we transition from a global capitalist world toward one that promotes economic and social justice.