Trade

Polly Jones 01-28-2016
Andrius Repsys / Shutterstock

Andrius Repsys / Shutterstock

IN MID-DECEMBER, trade talks involving almost every country in the world closed in Nairobi. Did anyone hear the door slam?

Previous negotiations of the World Trade Organization (WTO) have been sites of furious protest and resistance by tens of thousands of people, including small farmers, trade unionists, anti-globalization activists, and faith and development organizations. (The 1999 negotiations were called the “battle in Seattle” for good reason.)

While the Nairobi meetings held some similarities to previous WTO negotiations—fears that no agreement would be reached and entrenched positions by the global North and South—other aspects were entirely different, including the way civil society is organized for engagement.

In the last two years, we have witnessed the rise of megaregional trade deals. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) between the U.S. and the European Union is one example, but there are many others under negotiation. The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and the E.U. has been finalized and the text is awaiting parliamentary agreements some time in 2016. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) between the U.S. and many Pacific Rim countries was agreed upon in October 2015 and is waiting for governments to ratify it. The Trade In Services Agreement is in its 15th round of negotiations involving more than 50 countries.

These deals have many similarities. They are designed to open up new markets for global corporations and create the conditions for them to be as lucrative as possible. Perceived “barriers” to trade, such as fair labor standards, food safety regulations, and publicly provided services, are to be reduced or removed.

Additional legal protections to safeguard corporate profits from the effects of national government policies (such as raising the minimum wage or introducing plain-packaging on tobacco products) will be introduced. And, of course, the negotiations are held in secret, away from democratic scrutiny.

Lawsuits help corporations run roughshod over governments and the environment.

Elizabeth Palmberg 04-13-2012
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

President Barack Obama disembarks from Marine One, en route to Cartegena, Colombia. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Whatever President Obama does at the upcoming Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia this weekend may not be front-page news in the U.S—but for many Colombians trying to make an honest living in their homeland, it could just be Obama's "Mission Accomplished" banner moment.

President George W. Bush's May 2003 speech in front of a giant "Mission Accomplished" sign was, to put it mildly, a premature declaration of triumph in the U.S. war with Iraq, an enterprise that was a bad idea in the first place. In Cartagena this weekend, word is that Obama may declare that, after one year of a promised four-year plan, Colombia has met its commitments to crack down on offenses against Colombian workers' rights and lives.

the Web Editors 11-07-2011
Chris Hedges. Image via Wiki Commons.

Chris Hedges. Image via Wiki Commons.

Chris Hedges' statement on Occupy Wall Street read in part:

As part of the political theater that has come to replace the legislative and judicial process, the Securities and Exchange Commission agreed to a $550 million settlement whereby Goldman Sachs admitted it showed "incomplete" information in marketing materials and that it was a "mistake" to not disclose the nature of its portfolio selection committee. This fine was a payoff to the SEC by Goldman Sachs of about four days' worth of revenue, and in return they avoided going to court. CEO Lloyd Blankfein apparently not only lied to clients, but to the subcommittee itself on April 27, 2010, when he told lawmakers: "We didn't have a massive short against the housing market, and we certainly did not bet against our clients." Yet, they did.

Stacey Schwenker 10-28-2011

800px-Hersheys_Chocolate

If you buy your candy in the United States, chances are that your treats are filled with more than sugar and empty calories. They also may hold the blood, sweat, and tears of an African children who should be in elementary school rather than slaving in cocoa fields.

As a liberal, a progressive that stands to the left of President Obama, I do not expect to hear much in a Republican presidential debate with which I will agree.
Andrew Simpson 09-19-2011

Rick Perry was recently asked by a nine-year-old "If you were a super hero, what kind of super hero would you be?" His answer to the child's benign question was simultaneously predictable and profound: Superman.

Lisa Sharon Harper 09-01-2011

Did anyone else get the feeling, as we watched weather reporters wave their arms frantically in swirling motions across oversized maps of the eastern seaboard -- with their eyes bulging as they pushed out whole paragraphs without a single breath for a period -- that this was all hype?

Last weekend, as Irene passed over town after town in the mid-Atlantic, memories of Katrina did not materialize. By the time Irene huffed over New York City on Sunday morning, and the flood of the century was actually just a really big puddle in Battery Park and a floating lifeguard stand in Long Beach, my fear had transformed into complacency. From there I became cynical. By Sunday afternoon I found myself watching the weatherman's bulging eyes as he repeated the mantra of the day: "It's not as bad as we thought it would be, but it's not over." And I thought: "Boy, they'll do anything for ratings."

But it wasn't all hype.

Julie Clawson 07-13-2011

1100713-harrypotterjustice2Seeking justice for the oppressed. Working to end the connection of child slavery to chocolate. Helping heal a devastated Haiti. Mobilizing young people to respond to a story of redemption by imaginatively working to build a better world. I think many of us Christians would hope that those words were describing the work of the body of Christ, intent on following the path of Jesus Christ in this world. In this case, they are actually descriptions of the Harry Potter Alliance. That's right -- the Harry Potter Alliance.

A U.S.-Colombia trade pact would not address, and might even reward, paramilitary violence.

Steve Holt 06-24-2011
Sitting in church the other night, I thought about Jackson Helms.
Elizabeth Palmberg 06-22-2011
In the past two years, the social safety net has helped more Americans than any time in a generation. So why are so many people trying to tear it to shreds?
Here is part two of my thoughts on the financial situation that the United States faces. Our nation needs a jobs bill. The country needs a second stimulus bill.
Jim Ball 05-18-2011
Whoever is our next president -- whether President Obama in a second term or the eventual Republican nominee -- will be the most consequential president ever for overcoming global warming
Jeannie Choi 05-13-2011

Tomatoes. Uganda. Fair Trade. Here's a little round up of links from around the Web you may have missed this week:

  • Stop the hate in Uganda.
  • The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops asks Senator John Boehner for a budget that "reduces future deficits, protects the poor and vulnerable people, advances the common good, and promotes human life and dignity."
  • Continue praying for Egypt.
Debra Dean Murphy 04-06-2011
"It is not that we burn the Koran with some type of vindictive motive," Mr.
Ruth Messinger 04-01-2011
After my teenage granddaughter returned recently from a service experience in Uganda, sponsored by American Jewish World Service, she remarked that she would never again say she's "starving" on her
Chuck Collins 03-28-2011
Across the United States, there is a new movement emerging to dramatize the immorality of corporate tax dodging in the face of drastic budget cuts.
Lynne Hybels 03-09-2011
On the weekend of Oct. 6, 2001 -- less than one month after 9/11 -- my husband preached a sermon called "Religion Gone Awry." That was not the message he had originally scheduled for that weekend.

Will you be giving up chocolate for Lent? Coffee? Then why not fast for justice? Why not abstain from shopping at grocery stores that scoff at the notion of Fair Trade for farmworkers here at home?

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