Free Trade vs. Fair Trade: Where are we headed?

Ron Kirk, President Obama’s pick for U.S. Trade Representative, is in “no hurry to rush pending trade pacts to Congress,” reports Reuters. Well, that’s nice to hear for once.

a little background…

On July 26th 2007, in a midnight session of Congress, President Bush was given a new tool for his Global Trade belt; ‘fast track’ (officially known as Trade Promotion Authority) gives the President license to write up his own trade agreements with countries around the world. Congress has the power to vote up or down on the agreements, but they can’t touch the actual rules. Bush (and his Trade Rep. sidekick) took the authority and ran with it, passing dozens of free trade agreements like CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Agreement), and agreements with Chile, Singapore, Morocco and more. (Global Trade Watch, an arm of the public interest group Public Citizen, has published a great e-book on the history of fast track).

Trade unions, along with many public interest groups, continue to oppose these free trade agreements, and have called for a freeze on all new legislation of their kind.

a new way for trade?

Red. Mike Michaud (D-Maine) introduces the TRADE Act.

Red. Mike Michaud (D-Maine) introduces the TRADE Act.

It appears that the tide is beginning to turn. Fast track expired two years ago, and so far our new President is not as trigger-happy with trade agreements as his predecessor. Lawmakers and citizens alike are also calling for a new direction in U.S. Trade policy. On June 24th, Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine) introduced the TRADE (Trade Reform Accountability Development and Employment) Act in the House of Representatives with 106 co-sponsers.

The TRADE act calls for Congress to reexamine all current Free Trade agreements, evaluate their overall impact on both U.S. and trade-partner citizens, and chart a new path towards trade agreements that benefit workers and the environment. Check out the video below in which Lori Wallach, director of Global Trade Watch, explains what it’s all about.

It’s been a long battle to slow down the Free Trade machine, and to hear remarks like these from Kirk certainly warms our Fair Trade loving hearts…

“We’ll bring them up (for approval in Congress) when we get them to the point that they meet the criteria that the president has laid out for me of having trade deals that reflect our values on labor and the environment, that help us meet his objective, which is still getting America back to work and turning this economy around,”

Looking forward to a new day for trade.


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