…the Bush administration has told Peru and Colombia that their free-trade agreements with the United States will need ”substantive adjustments” to secure Congressional approval.
Deputy U.S. Trade Representative John K. Veroneau told reporters Wednesday that the concessions were needed to assuage Democratic objections over labor rights.
Of course, when the Bushies say “substantive,” you can expect “cosmetic.” The Herald continues:
The Bush administration rushed to clarify Veroneau’s remarks with a statement through trade representative spokeswoman Gretchen Hamel, saying the adjustments could be made through “some binding instrument and it is not necessary to reopen the text of the agreement.'”
This implies a type of side agreement similar to what President Clinton negotiated with Mexico to pass the North American Free Trade Agreement through Congress in 1994.
Democrats have criticized the Mexico side agreement as too weak, and it was not clear whether the new formula would be acceptable.
I’m told by insiders that the Bush administration later in the day back tracked even further, stating definitively that they will still refuse to re-open the negotiations on the texts of these agreements.
Still, this is evidence that the White House recognizes that the public wants fair trade that benefits workers at home and abroad.
Furthermore, as the AP reports, newly elected House Democrats are making sure their own party leaders recognize the public mandate:
In a … letter to [House Ways and Means Chair Charlie] Rangel, 39 freshman Democratic House members asked for a chance to shape trade legislation even though they do not serve on the Ways and Means Committee.
The letter said the lawmakers believed the key to their winning campaigns was “our ability to take a vocal stand against the administration’s misguided trade agenda.”
Straight Talk, the progressive vision laid out by Campaign for America’s Future, articulated a positive path on trade to help guide our policymakers:
We need global coordination to grow our way out of this hole. If we don’t act together, the market’s answer is likely to be a falling dollar and the risk of a global recession.
We need a trading system that helps lift up wages and conditions abroad so that they are not driven down here at home. And we should provide worker rights the same international protection as investor rights and protect the environment and not just the corporations.