David Sirota has it here:
"Obama said he would vote for a Peruvian trade agreement next week, in response to a question from a man in Londonderry, NH who called NAFTA and CAFTA a disaster for American workers. He said he supported the trade agreement with Peru because it contained the labor and environmental standards sought by groups like the AFL-CIO, despite the voter's protests to the contrary. He also affirmed his support for free trade."
Since Sirota only usually mentions labor and enviro standards as reasons to oppose FTAs and ignores agriculture (and how ironic for Obama to say you support this trade agreement that will devastate the Peruvian rainforests on the same day you announce a good plan to address CO2 emissions....), i will focus on what i believe will be the most devastating impact of this agreement: on Peruvian farmers who will now starve.
the labor and enviro reasons are all sound too, but the most profound effects will be on small scale Peruvian farmers, who constitute much of the population.
Obama follows the "conventional" wisdom that I learned in my trade theory classes: either you trade or you are an "isolationist" country that ends up like North Korea. This is such a false and stupid paradigm, on par with Bush's telling other countries you are "either with us or against us."
There are 28,000 cotton farmers in Peru who will now be subject to dumping by our cheap cotton. Unlike US cotton farmers, Peru farmers don't get subsidies to make up for lost income when the price crashes for cotton. The same will be true of maize farmers, who will get dumped on by cheap US corn.
Oxfam has the story here:
Folks who have read my previous diaries know that Oxfam and many U.S. family farmers agree there is a severe problem of dumping and overproduction leading to low prices. We disagree profoundly on the causes and solutions (i.e. subsidies are not the root cause and getting rid of them is not the solution), but we both agree this trade agreement is a BAD DEAL for Peruvian farmers and agree on the impacts.
Lily looks after the family money and has to budget carefully. She says: "How are we going to live now [under the FTA]? We are going to die of hunger. My kids would like to be professionals – my daughter a dentist, my son wants to join the army. But they can’t they have to stay at home and work in the cotton field."
How heartbreaking that a former community organizer such as Obama cannot hear the cries of the oppressed, and Peru's workers, farmers in their opposition to this agreement and what it will do to them.
Free trade agreements that reduce a developing countries tariffs only serve to weaken a country's food sovereignty. After NAFTA passed, Mexico became reliant on cheap US corn, which drove 2 million farmers off their land (and into the US). Instead of sustainable, small-scale farming that produces for local markets, what this FTA will do is shift the model towards the US's model of industrial agriculture, complete with factory livestock farms and huge plantations to grow food for export (asparagus, artichokes). this in turns harms US vegetable producers who cannot compete with the cheap imports.
Ervin Palma again: "[We are seeing] the reversal of the agrarian reform of the 1970s [when land was redistributed in favour of the poor]. Many agro-exporters are increasing the land under cultivation, buying up land from small producers, who have to sell their property to pay debts. People talk of the "agricultural export boom" here in Peru, but the truth is that the money generated by the sale of asparagus and other export products is not helping the communities or the workers on the big farms. The profit remains in the hand of a few."
Earl Blumeneauer, he of the supposed "local and healthy" food beliefs who fought for Farm Bill "reform" under this guise, supports this FTA as well. Yet this FTA not only undermines Peru's small scale farmers, it threatens our own local food efforts! Besides U.S. vegetable/fruit producers (many of whom have already been driven out of business by cheap imports from Latin America and China) having to compete with plantations with horrid working conditions in Peru, our ranchers and cattlemen will also have to deal with corporate agribusiness packers now importing livestock from Peru, some of which have dubious health standards!! But Smithfield and Tyson will love sourcing cheap cattle and bringing them into the US's feedlots...
Here is what Bob Billard of R-CALF, the progressive cattlemen's group (as opposed to the morons at National Cattlemen) had to say about the lowering of US food safety standards because of foreign imports:
"This is why the requirement that allows foreign packing plants to export beef into the United States so long as the country meets equivalent standards n is inadequate," he noted. "The United States only inspects about 11 percent of imported beef, pork, and poultry, and we certainly don’t have the resources to ensure that developing countries are not using veterinary drugs, pesticides, and feed supplements that are restricted here in the United States."
The United States has the highest production standards in the world and we should be using trade agreements to help elevate the production standards in developing countries, not lowering our standards simply to facilitate more imports into the United States, as the Peru agreement would do, said Bullard.
This is why i do not believe agriculture and food should be part of free trade agreements and why I think they are so devastating to the third world. most progressives focus on labor, enviro, intellectual property, investors rights, all of which are important, but the number one industry in many developing countries is agriculture and this is where the FTA hurts the most.
I do hope John Edwards does seize on this issue, as he has been by far the best in terms of laying out a family farmers agenda that truly takes on agribusiness. He doesn't yet link trade to agriculture issues, mainly cause I'm not sure he understands the link, but his message is right on target.
Obama is a good and smart man. I hope he stops listening to his "Hamilton Project" advisors soon though and starts to grasp the huge challenges farmers around the world are facing.