...another so-called "free trade" agreement is trying to impose itself on unsuspecting people. Every time I think of the birth of these agreements, I think of those plant-like things in "Alien" that pop out yet another terrifying monster.
This new ugly brew is called the Andean Free Trade Agreement because it will cover Peru, Columbia and Ecuador. In December, the Bush administration reached a deal with Peru to roll it into the so-called "free trade" fraternity--and, then, figured why not pull in the other two countries. And those negotiations to wrap up this awful agreement are rushing to a conclusion as we write here.
I know most long-time readers know why I call these deals so-called "free trade." But, if you're relatively new: these deals have nothing to do with "free trade," a kind of theoritical trade that does not exist today, if it ever did. You could write a free trade deal in a few pages--drop all trade barriers. Period. Instead, every so-called "free trade" deal is, in fact, a massive document stuffed full of exceptions and special deals for corporations and investors.
Among the many aspects of this deal that really stink you have to point to the inclusion of Columbia for this reason: over 2,100 labor union activists have been murdered in the country since 1991. Once this deal is cut, any leverage against the Columbian government would end and the relentless assault against trade union activits would continue.
Our friends at Global Trade Watch tell me this: "What makes this situation even more unbelievable is that Peruvian president Alejandro Toledo suggested including stronger labor provisions in AFTA, but this offer was harshly rejected by the Republican congressman in charge of trade policy, Rep. Bill Thomas (R-Calif.), and is not included in the text of the U.S.-Peru deal reached in December that Colombia and Ecuador are being pressured now to join. The Bush administration is forcing a deal that will allow U.S. companies to relocate jobs to places where unions are suppressed with frequent assassinations-with absolutely no enforceable recourse for beleaguered workers.
It is interesting that the Bush Administration--and their willing pro-so-called "free trade" allies in the Democratic party--are pushing a deal in an area of the world that is relentlessly rejecting the neo-liberal model because it just doesn't serve the interests of most human beings. As we've been discussing this week, the changes in governments in South America are largely coming because people are fed up with an economic model that just does not work--at least for workers.