55 House members speak out for fair trade

Corrected to note that one Republican also signed this letter.

Today 55 House representatives took a stand against the Panama Free Trade Agreement in an open letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

After the jump I've posted the full text of the letter, along with the list of those who signed. Here is an excerpt:

We believe trade agreements must meet basic standards protecting labor rights, environmental standards, food safety regulations, financial regulations, and taxation transparency. We are disturbed by Panama's tax haven status and the use of this tax haven by U.S. financial institutions like AIG and Citibank. The U.S. is currently contemplating stricter financial regulations to protect our economy, but the Panama FTA will likely weaken any such effort. We believe the Panama FTA should be renegotiated in order to address these outstanding issues.

President Obama campaigned effectively on changing the trade model and his message resonated with the American people.  We believe the Panama FTA falls far short of that commitment and it is not in the best interests of the American worker, our economy, or our country.  We share your commitment to fighting for working families and believe you can be an effective advocate for our cause.

The House members who signed the letter mostly belong to the Populist Caucus, House Trade Working Group, and/or the Progressive Caucus. One Republican signed: Walter Jones (NC-03).

"Defending American competitiveness by fighting for fair trade principles" is one of the six key priorities for the Populist Caucus, which Bruce Braley (IA-01) formed earlier this year.

Also today, a U.S. Trade Representative announced that the Panama agreement "won't be submitted to Congress for approval until President Barack Obama offers a new 'framework' for trade." At Open Left, David Sirota interpreted that announcement as a victory (albeit possibly only temporary) for the Populist Caucus, its allies and the AFL-CIO, which had already come out against the Panama agreement.

We'll see whether the White House is willing to deviate significantly from the NAFTA model in this agreement. Whatever the final outcome, I am glad to see a large House contingent taking a stand for fair trade.

Note: the House members who signed this letter include 17 of the 23 founding members of the House Populist Caucus--all except for Leonard Boswell (IA-03); Joe Courtney (CT-02); Mazie Hirono (HI-02); Linda Sanchez (CA-39); Peter Welch (VT-AL); and John Yarmuth (KY-03).

May 21, 2009

Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Speaker, U.S. House of Representatives
H-232, US Capitol
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Speaker Pelosi,

As representatives of the Populist Caucus, House Trade Working Group, Progressive Caucus and other Members of the House Democratic Caucus, we believe this is a historic opportunity to push forward a new trade model that will benefit workers and businesses.  We seek your support to work with the Administration to establish a new approach to trade.

We believe the Panama Free Trade Agreement (FTA) is not a new model on trade and does not represent the kind of change the American people are seeking.  After eight years of a failed Bush free trade agenda, the current demise of our economy, and an ensuing massive increase in unemployment, it is difficult to justify to our constituents the passage of another badly flawed trade agreement.  We fear passage of this agreement will set us back down the misguided course of past trade deals.

As you know all too well, the current recession has hammered the American family.  Unemployment, now at 8.9%, is expected to rise even more. Since the recession began in December 2007, 5.1 million jobs have been lost. It is noteworthy that the Panama FTA negotiations were completed in 2006, a full year before the recession began. Given the rapid demise of our economy, we are concerned that the FTAs negotiated under the prior Administration and in a different economic outlook, are out of step with the needs of an economic recovery. This disconnect between the Panama FTA and the current needs to restore our economy will make any vote on this FTA difficult to justify. Indeed, it appears to be the opposite of the "change" theme Americans voted for in the last two elections.

We believe trade agreements must meet basic standards protecting labor rights, environmental standards, food safety regulations, financial regulations, and taxation transparency. We are disturbed by Panama's tax haven status and the use of this tax haven by U.S. financial institutions like AIG and Citibank. The U.S. is currently contemplating stricter financial regulations to protect our economy, but the Panama FTA will likely weaken any such effort. We believe the Panama FTA should be renegotiated in order to address these outstanding issues.

President Obama campaigned effectively on changing the trade model and his message resonated with the American people.  We believe the Panama FTA falls far short of that commitment and it is not in the best interests of the American worker, our economy, or our country.  We share your commitment to fighting for working families and believe you can be an effective advocate for our cause.

In light of the recession, we believe it is in the best interest of the United States for the President to work with Congress to chart a new course for trade. There should be a public discussion involving not just the United States Trade Representative but also Members of Congress about how to achieve a balanced trade agenda in difficult economic times. We ask for an open, honest dialogue and a new trade model and would welcome the opportunity to meet with you to discuss these issues further.

Sincerely,

Mike Arcuri
Tammy Baldwin
John Boccieri
Rick Boucher
Bruce Braley
Steve Cohen
John Conyers
Kathy Dahlkemper
Peter DeFazio
Rosa DeLauro
Mike Doyle
Donna Edwards
Keith Ellison
Bob Filner
Marcia Fudge
Gene Green
Raul Grijalva
Phil Hare
Alcee Hastings
Maurice Hinchey
Hank Johnson
Walter B. Jones
Steve Kagen
Marcy Kaptur
Dale Kildee
Mary Jo Kilroy
Dennis Kucinich
Barbara Lee
Dan Lipinski
David Loebsack
Stephen Lynch
Jim Marshall
Eric Massa
James McGovern
Mike Michaud
Grace Napolitano
John Olver
Frank Pallone
Tom Perriello
Chellie Pingree
Tim Ryan
Jan Schakowsky
Mark Schauer
Carol Shea-Porter
Brad Sherman
Heath Shuler
Louise Slaughter
Bart Stupak
Betty Sutton
Gene Taylor
Paul Tonko
Pete Visclosky
Maxine Waters
Charlie Wilson
Lynn Woolsey

Tags: Barack Obama, Bruce Braley, Fair Trade, free trade, House Trade Working Group, NAFTA, Nancy Pelosi, Panama Free Trade Agreement, Panama FTA, Populist Caucus, progressive caucus, trade (all tags)

Comments

5 Comments

Re: 55 House Democrats speak out for fair trade

Go them.  Pretty broad cross-section there.  Some really good ones (ie. Woolsey) and some otherwise useless ones (ie. Taylor, Marshall, Shuler).  There's even a Republican!

by TheUnknown285 2009-05-21 06:20PM | 0 recs
thanks--I missed the Republican

when I scanned the list. I have corrected the post.

by desmoinesdem 2009-05-21 06:40PM | 0 recs
Amazing to see Jones on here

I bet that if his district was in the shape it was when he was elected in 1994, he would have switched to the Democrats.  He is probably actually a little to the left of someone like Heath Shuler.  

by Kent 2009-05-21 06:32PM | 0 recs
he's actually voting his district's interests

It's only surprising because the House Republicans tend to be such a wholly-owned subsidiary of corporate America.

by desmoinesdem 2009-05-21 06:40PM | 0 recs
Let's hope Obama does what he promised on trade

Good post.

I thought this video of an intern setting up a tax haven in Panama was hilarious:

http://action.citizen.org/t/1153/campaig n.jsp?campaign_KEY=27129&track=web

by iowatoDC 2009-05-21 07:39PM | 0 recs

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