October 7, 2011At long last both the House and the Senate are scheduled to vote on the three free trade agreements (FTAs) that have languished for more than four years. Votes on the trade pacts are scheduled for next Wednesday and will be linked to votes on Trade Adjustment Assistance -- a condition that President Obama and Democratic leaders had demanded.
Although there appears to be bipartisan support, the AFL-CIO is still opposed to all of the pending FTAs and brought hundreds of union members to Capitol Hill to tell their congressional cohorts to vote against all three pacts. Their particular focus is on the U.S.-Colombia FTA, even though they demanded -- and got...
September 21, 2011Now that reauthorization of Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) is all but a done deal -- a quid pro quo from Republican leadership to President Obama and his union allies to get him to submit three pending trade agreements -- it’s useful to look at who the recipients were over the past year to get an idea about how the new monies, to the tune of $1.17 billion per year, will be spent. Remember that TAA provides unemployment payments, retraining, relocation expenses, and other payments to workers who ostensibly lost their jobs because of foreign competition.
First the workers’ group has to be certified by the U.S. Department of Labor that they meet three criteria for...
Sen. McConnell Introduces "Fast Track" Trade Authority; Hits Unions for Obstructing Trade AgreementsSeptember 20, 2011Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) made a gutsy statement on the Senate floor today, saying that he was introducing an amendment to give the president Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). This was said while the Senate was considering a bill to extend trade preferences to less developed countries and about to deal with Trade Adjustment Assistance legislation, which the administration has said is essential before three pending trade agreements are sent to the Senate.
McConnell noted that TPA, also known as “fast track” authority, gives the president the ability to negotiate trade agreements and have them considered by Congress without amendments. He said that TPA, however, expired in...
September 15, 2011The World Trade Organization’s (WTO) dispute panel has found that the U.S. requirements for a “dolphin-safe” label on tuna products are more trade-restrictive than necessary to fulfill the U.S. objectives. The WTO published the dispute panel’s findings in a case brought by Mexico against the United States relating to the U.S. requirements for “dolphin-safe” labeling. Mexico had claimed that the U.S. measures were inconsistent with several articles of the WTO’s Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement (TBT) -- that the U.S. measures were discriminatory and were more trade-restrictive than needed to fulfill U.S. objectives.
The dispute panel found that the labeling requirements did not discriminate against Mexican tuna products, which aren’t given less favorable treatment than tuna from the U.S. or other...
September 13, 2011The American Medical Association is calling for alcohol and tobacco to be excluded in all new U.S. trade agreements. New Zealand’s NZWeek, at the start of the next round of negotiations in Chicago on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, reported that the AMA’s executive vice president wrote to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk saying that TPP and all other trade agreements should exclude those products in the interests of public health.
The AMA’s James L. Madara said in the letter:
“Removing trade barriers may be a desirable objective when the...
August 11, 2011Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper, with his strong defense of Canada’s trade agreement with Colombia, provides a stark contrast with President Obama’s weak-kneed approach to the long-languishing U.S.- Colombia Free Trade Agreement. In Bogota, for talks with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, Harper called critics of the trade pact phonies who are using human rights issues as a screen to mask their protectionist agendas. The trade agreement with Colombia goes into effect August 15.
"Colombia is a wonderful country with great possibility and great ambition. And we need to be encouraging that every step of the way. That's why we have made this a priority to get this deal done. We can't block the progress of a country like this...
August 2, 2011Richard Cohen’s column today, “Green with Tea Party Envy,” starts off comparing the lack of passion and purpose of President Obama with the Tea Party activists. And he paints a reasonable contrast.
But then Cohen veers off into what liberals like Cohen would refer to as “hate speech.” Here are some examples:
The odd thing about the Tea Party is that it uses Washington to attack Washington. This is a version of Hannah Arendt’s observation that totalitarian movements use democratic institutions to destroy democracy. (This is what Islamic radicals will do in Egypt.)
So the Tea Party activists -- a grassroots somewhat amorphous movement with no clear undisputed leadership is a...
July 25, 2011In yesterday’s New York Times, trade economist Jagdish Bhagwati takes the Obama administration and Congress to task for letting the World Trade Organization’s Doha Round languish. Bhagwati points out that with all the attention focused on bilateral agreements, special interests can have a hey-day and exercise their clout. Witness what trade unions have increasingly demanded with the pending Free Trade Agreements, cloaking their protectionist demands with talk of worker rights.
When the United States negotiates bilateral deals with other countries, the unbalanced nature of the one-on-one negotiations also opens the way for all manner of lobbies to ram their self-serving demands into the agreements.
Bhagwati noted that in a multilateral trading system, special interest lobbies...
June 28, 2011As summer heats up, so does Congress as it looks at legislation that should be considered before the August recess. The three pending Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) -- with South Korea, Panama, and Colombia -- are a case in point. Each of those agreements has to have implementing legislation submitted to and then voted on by Congress. But there are still some thorny issues that divide the Republicans and the Democrats, especially in the House.
The Obama administration, after coming around to reluctant support of the FTAs that have been languishing for almost five years, just last month said that the trade pacts couldn’t be considered unless Congress also passed Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) -- legislation that would give hefty monetary and other...
June 21, 2011Get ready to see nine sensationalistic images depicting the dangers of smoking on cigarette packs beginning September 2012. Rotted lungs and teeth, chest holes, dead and grieving people are just a few of the lurid photos in living color that the Food and Drug Administration will require on packages. (I have deliberately suppressed the display of the ghoulish photos here to protect children and the more sensitive from these images and to avoid promoting the FDA’s overkill on warnings.)
According to the FDA:
The introduction of these warnings is expected to have a significant public health impact by decreasing the number of smokers, resulting in lives saved, increased life expectancy, and...