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Record on Deals for Trade Votes: Don't Get Fooled Again - Lessons from NAFTA and China PNTR Deal-for-Vote Swapmeets

December 1, 2001

In this report, we follow up on the status of the NAFTA promises and the China Permanent Normal Relations (PNTR) promises which still had the possibility of being kept. (For instance, a promised fund-raiser is irrelevant once the Member is out of Congress.) Nearly eight years after the NAFTA deals were made and eighteen months after PNTR and promises for domestic programs remained unfunded. The special deals promised to obtain NAFTA and PNTR votes remain unfulfilled. Promises remain unmet even though the Members of Congress involved kept their end of the bargain and voted for NAFTA C some incurring long-lasting political ire at home. Many of the Administration's promises were delivered in formal letters to the target Members by Cabinet Secretaries or the President. Other deals were added into the NAFTA legislation in the House Rules Committee on the eve of the vote. While the letters of "commitment" have made tracking the deals somewhat easier, the letters proved to be worth less than the paper on which they were written. Promises in the NAFTA implementing legislation either were not funded or, in the case of safeguards for Florida fruits and vegetables, were not implemented. Over eight years, the Clinton Administration failed to deliver on the NAFTA vote-deals -- special funding for in-district projects and the policy-related promises to change U.S. regulation. Now, the Bush Administration is trying desperately to gin up support for the controversial Fast Track trade negotiating authority, bill H.R. 3005. Days before the vote, the measure is 40-plus votes short of passage, as critics of corporate managed trade have successfully demonstrated the woefully inadequate track record of NAFTA and the substantial failures of trade agreements to generate jobs, economic growth or protect the environment. The examination of the actual follow through of the deal-making necessary to secure NAFTA and PNTR votes reveals that promises on Fast Track also are unlikely to come to fruition. The Bush Administration's capacity to press Democrats on any spending plan after bailouts of the airlines, additional safeguards for insurers against terrorism losses and huge corporate tax breaks is rapidly eroding, making special pork barrel deals for Fast Track votes less likely to be fulfilled.

Down on the Farm: NAFTA's Seven-Years War on Farmers and Ranchers in Florida

August 1, 2001

In the summer of 2001, family farmers and ranchers throughout North America are struggling. During the 1993 debate over the fate of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Florida farmers and ranchers as well as farm communities across the U.S. were promised that NAFTA would provide access to new export markets and thus would finally bring a lasting solution to farmers off-and-on struggles for economic success. Now, seven years later, the evidence shows the income of independent Florida farmers has declined, consumer prices have risen while some giant agribusinesses have reaped huge profits. Florida has lost 1,000 small and medium sized farms since NAFTA went into effect. Total net income for "farm operations" in Florida increased between 1993 and 1999 but all of the income gain was in corporate farms. When corporate income increases are eliminated farm income drops steeply in Florida. During the seven years of NAFTA, net farm income for non-corporate Florida farm operations fell 74.4% between 1993 and 1999 from $51.4 million to $13.4 million. These bad outcomes for independent farmers are defining the growing national debates over President Bush s proposals to establish Fast Track trade authority and to expand NAFTA to 31 other Latin American and Caribbean nations through the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). This report documents the results that are causing farmers concern about NAFTA and its model of export-oriented agriculture. This special Florida supplement to a recent national report on NAFTA s agriculture-sector outcomes examines the impact of NAFTA on Florida farmers. For the past seven years, Florida vegetable growers, especially tomato and bell pepper growers, have been facing intense pressure from increasing imported vegetables from Mexico. Florida s citrus crop, the jewel of Florida s agriculture production, is already facing increased pressure from Mexico and will face even further import threats if President Bush is granted Fast Track trade authority. President Bush has announced he is seeking trade authority to negotiate FTAA NAFTA expansion which could result in Florida facing severe competition from powerhouse citrus producer Brazil. Farmers raising beef cattle in Florida who have seen incomes decline as farmgate prices for beef have collapsed in Florida under NAFTA would face new FTAA imports from beef giants Argentina and Brazil. Moreover, sugarcane farmers, who received special protection from Mexican sugar imports when NAFTA was negotiated, face even greater threats from FTAA nation Brazil which dominates the world sugar trade. Brazil has announced that access tothe U.S. for its citrus, beef, and sugar is a non-negotiable requirement for any FTAA deal. The complete executive summary and access to the full report are available via the link below.

Down on the Farm: NAFTA's Seven-Years War on Farmers and Ranchers in the U.S., Canada and Mexico

June 1, 2001

In the summer of 2001, family farmers and ranchers throughout North America are struggling. During the 1993 debate over the fate of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), U.S. farmers and ranchers were promised that NAFTA would provide access to new export markets and thus would finally bring a lasting solution to farmers' off-and-on struggles for economic success.Now, seven years later, the evidence shows farm income has declined, consumer prices have risen and some giant agribusinesses have reaped huge profits. These outcomes are defining the growing national debates over President Bush's proposals to establish Fast Track trade authority and to expand NAFTA through the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).This report reveals the basis for farmers' concern about NAFTA and its model of export-oriented agriculture. For the past seven years, Midwestern and Plains states wheat farmers; ranchers in Montana, Texas and other states; vegetable, flower and fruit growers in California; lumber mill owners in Louisiana, Arkansas and Washington; vegetable growers in Florida; chicken farmers nationwide and others have suffered declining commodity prices and farm income while a flood of NAFTA imports outpaced U.S. exports to Canada and Mexico. Yet it was not farmers in Mexico or Canada who benefitted from U.S. farmers' woes. Millions of campesinos throughout Mexico have lost a significant source of income and left their small corn farms. Some became farm laborers working in squalid conditions for poverty wages on large plantations growing produce for export to the U.S. Others moved to Mexico's cities where unemployment is high. Canadian grain and dairy farmers also face steeply rising debt during the NAFTA era. This report also documents the rise in Mexican staple food prices, such as in tortilla prices, even as the price paid to Mexican corn farmers dropped 48%. However, NAFTA has brought seven years of good fortune to many of the agribusinesses that pressured Washington, Ottawa and Mexico City to negotiate and ratify NAFTA's corporate- managed trade terms. Since NAFTA stripped away many safeguards for the folks who produce raw agricultural products, relative power and leverage has grown for large agribusiness conglomerates to exert pressure on both farmers and consumers. In Washington D.C., the Bush Administration is pushing forward with an ambitious plan to expand the NAFTA model throughout the hemisphere through FTAA. President George W. Bush and his principal trade policy advisors have stated that they intend to make the debate about NAFTA expansion and Fast Track (which they want to rename "Presidential Trade Promotion Authority") a referendum on NAFTA. Public Citizen agrees that the debate over NAFTA expansion indeed, the national conversation about the premises and direction of U.S. trade policy should be decided on the basis of the real-life results of NAFTA and the model on which it is based. In this report, we show how independent farmers in the U.S., Mexico and Canada have seen agricultural prices plummet, farm incomes collapse and critical domestic agriculture safety net programs dismantled. International free trade agreements and the domestic policies which furthered implementation of the export-oriented model, such as the U.S. "Freedom to Farm Act," have proved to benefit only the largest agribusinesses while the majority of farmers and consumers have lost.

Coming NAFTA Crash: The Deadly Impact of a Secret NAFTA Tribunal's Decision to Open U.S. Highways to Unsafe Mexican Trucks

February 1, 2001

Report documents that Mexico's truck safety regulations are virtually non-existent, that Mexican trucks have far more safety deficiencies than U.S. trucks, that a disproportionate number of Mexican trucks crossing the border have been taken out of service for serious safety violations, and that the U.S. lacks enough inspectors to check incoming trucks. Further, Texas border communities within the commercial border zone in which Mexican trucks are permitted have seen a dramatic increase in highway fatalities and serious injuries from crashes involving trucks with Mexican registrations, the report found.

Purchasing Power: The Corporate-White House Alliance to Pass the China Trade Bill Over the Will of the American People

October 1, 2000

The passage of China Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) by the U.S. House of Representatives in late May 2000 over the overwhelming will of the American people was the result of the most forceful and aggressive corporate legislative campaign in history. Despite four-to-one public opposition, the bill was passed by the use of unprecedented amounts of corporate money in political contributions, advertising, lobbying and rented "experts," as well as the application of the White House s full resources. To fulfill their own overlapping goals, the corporate coalition and the White House worked in such tight coordination that the General Accounting Office has reported that federal law on Executive branch lobbying practices was violated. Deaf to pleas from even pro-PNTR House Democrats, the administration launched the China PNTR crusade to build a legacy for the President knowing it would damage Democrats chances to regain a House majority. To celebrate the House PNTR vote, President Clinton went out that night to a corporate political fund-raiser boycotted by many Democratic House Leaders. The corporate interest was in eliminating the annual Congressional review of China trade and to obtain unconditional, unlimited access to the U.S. market for goods produced in China. The day after the House vote, the Wall Street Journal and other papers finally reported that the corporations were not so much interested in access to the Chinese market to sell goods there, but rather sought guaranteed U.S. access for goods they could produce in China with its remarkably high-quality, cheap, government-controlled labor and lax environmental controls. Passing China PNTR was an important priority for both players for another important and symbolic reason: the proponents of corporate globalization and corporate managed trade had been defeated for five years by a determined citizen s movement that recognized that the corporate and White House globalization agenda was benefitting narrow corporate interests at the expense of working families and the environment. The Clinton administration and the corporate lobbies had pushed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) which established the World Trade Organization (WTO) through the Congress during the administration s first term. While the NAFTA and WTO fights required concerted corporate lobbying and public relations efforts, obtaining political support for expanding existing globalization policies had become much more difficult. Polling showed that people had become aware of the all-too-real down sides of what its proponents dubbed "free trade," but was increasingly revealed to be corporate managed trade. Several years after NAFTA's passage when its negative impacts became apparent, public opinion, never supportive of the corporate-White House trade agenda, turned frosty. Significant relocation of high-wage manufacturing jobs to Mexico, increased border pollution and health problems, and the declining safety of America s increasingly imported food supply made the public increasingly skeptical of the promises and projections made by the "free trade" proponents. The complete executive summary and access to the full report available via the link below.

The Clinton Record on Trade Vote Deal Making: High Infidelity

May 1, 2000

The report, an examination of the follow-through of the deals made to secure NAFTA, suggests that promises on China PNTR are unlikely to be kept. Short of votes to pass the China legislation on its merits, the administration is now finding that its record of living up to trade vote promises and its lame duck status are limiting its ability to make new pork-barrel deals on China. The complete executive summary and access to full report are available via the link below.