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May 29, 2007

What Smells in Secret Trade Deal

In May, House Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Charles Rangel announced at a rushed news conference a secret trade deal with the Bush Administration that purportedly would include international labor and environmental standards in pending trade agreements. One big problem, the final language of the deal hadn't been written - and still hasn't been made public. Second big problem, addressing the enormous damage caused by unregulated agricultural trade - one of the major stumbling blocks in trade agreements and at the WTO - was completely ignored.

IATP's Dennis Olson and Alexandra Spieldoch wrote in response to the deal, "Nowhere addressed in the trade deal is how to address the false promise consis­tent in free trade agreements that all farmers will find prosperity by increasing their export market shares. Of course farmers don’t export, multinational corpo­rations do. Instead of leading toward prosperity for farmers, free trade has driven an export-led corporate model of agriculture that has substantially increased the dumping of agricultural commodities onto world markets at below the cost of production. Small-scale farmers, who make up as high as 70 percent of the population in some of the poorest countries in the world, cannot compete with these below-cost imports."

The Citizens Trade Campaign points out, among other problems, not a single labor, environmental, consumer, family farm, faith or small business group has endorsed the deal, while it has received gushing support from business groups, including the Chamber of Commerce. What's not right with this picture?

Writer David Sirota has been all over other problems with this trade deal, particularly related to its alarming secrecy.

Olson and Spieldoch write, "The closed-door, backroom nature of the deal shows once again, like at the WTO and negotiations for other free trade agreements, how deeply flawed outcomes inevitably result from closed and non-transparent processes."

Ben Lilliston

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