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In a few moments, I will sign three agreements that will complete our negotiations with Mexico and Canada to create a North American Free Trade Agreement. In the coming months, I will submit this pact to Congress for approval. It will be a hard fight, and I expect to be there with all of you every step of the way. We will make our case as hard and as well as we can. And though the fight will be difficult, I deeply believe we will win. And I'd like to tell you why: first of all, because NAFTA means jobs American jobs, and good-paying American jobs. If I didn't believe that, I wouldn't support this agreement.

- Former President Bill Clinton speech on NAFTA, Sept. 13, 1993

Well, that didn't work out so well for us, did it? In fact, third party presidential candidate Ross Perot was more accurate when he described NAFTA as a "giant sucking sound." So what's up with the Peru Free Trade Agreement currently being pushed through Congress? Is it more of the same?

Well, we know where Barack Obama stands on the issue.

"Unlike NAFTA and CAFTA, the Peru Trade Agreement includes real, enforceable labor and environmental protections," Obama spokesman Jen Psaki said.

"Speaker Pelosi and Congressmen Rangel and Levin deserve credit for fighting hard for these provisions, and Barack Obama supports their efforts to make sure that our trade policies help American workers, not just big corporations," Psaki said.

Sound familiar? You might even say it...

means jobs American jobs, and good-paying American jobs. If I didn't believe that, I wouldn't support this agreement.

(Bill Clinton on NAFTA again.)

I've got three words for this expansion of NAFTA: Growing Sucking Sound.

So what has Hillary Clinton, the spouse of the man who gave us NAFTA, said on this new free trade agreement? Crickets.

John Edwards, on the other hand, has this to say:

"For decades, our leaders in Washington have pursued trade policies that have devastated communities like the ones I grew up in. Take NAFTA – it was supported by insiders from both political parties, but it has cost us more than 1 million jobs. Now, at a time when American families are terribly concerned about job losses and a weak economy, our Congress is about to vote on expanding the NAFTA-free trade model to Peru.

"The Peru deal will continue the trade policies that have long failed our workers and cost American workers their jobs. It's time to show some guts and backbone, stand up and oppose this trade deal, and demand trade policies that put families and workers first. I urge members of Congress to vote against this deal today.

"The fact that the Peru trade deal is supported by a bipartisan group of insiders, including George Bush and senior officials from the first Clinton Administration – many of whom are now lobbyists, corporate lawyers, and business consultants – should be proof-positive of why members of Congress should join with me and oppose this deal. The benefit to corporate lobbyists from both sides of the political aisle will come only at the expense of hard-working families.

"Senator Obama has chosen to support this bad deal. I strongly disagree with his position, but at least he has taken one. Senator Clinton, on the other hand, has refused to take any position. I urge Senator Clinton to publicly announce, today, her opposition and join with me in encouraging members of Congress to vote against the Peru trade deal."

As John Nichols at The Nation says,

Edwards is Right, Obama's Wrong, Clinton's Useless

As Illinois Congressman Phil Hare, a former textile union leader who has led the fight against the Bush-Pelosi line, notes: Peru is currently threatening striking miners with the loss of their jobs if they do not return to the mines. That's not protecting the rights of workers. Indeed, says Hare, "The striking miners were fighting for, among other things, an eight hour work day. In addition, we recently learned that there are 2 million children working in Peru, many in these very same mines."

"Is this the progress the supporters of the Peru FTA were referring to?" asks Hare, who adds, "Today's news should serve as yet another wakeup call that the best thing to do for workers both at home and in Peru is defeat this unfair trade deal."

Hare's right. But he needs some allies among the party's leading presidential contenders.

Obama's wrong and Clinton's of no use.

Thankfully, John Edwards is reading the issue right.

The House has now voted to consider this bill and will vote on it probably tonight. It is expected to pass, at which point it will go to the Senate. This is our last chance to speak out. Please contact your Senators and Representatives!

Many labor unions are opposed to this bill.

"The Democratic leadership, I'm surprised at,"Bruce Raynor, president of UNITE Here, a textile and service employees union, told reporters on a conference call opposing the Peru bill this week. "I think they failed to remember that in the last election many Democrats were elected to the House and Senate on the issue of failed trade policy."

TheMiddleClass.org from the Drum Major Institute has this to say about this bill:

The Middle Class Opposes. Increased international trade can contribute to economic growth, but the way trade rules are formulated in agreements like this means that the benefits of trade are distributed unevenly, ultimately undermining the middle class and aspiring middle class in both the U.S. and the nations it trades with. A central problem is that the Peru trade agreement empowers businesses and investment capital to cross international borders more easily, providing a decisive advantage over working people who are not so internationally mobile and whose rights are not equally well protected in all of the nations covered by the agreement. This imbalance of power creates incentives to move U.S. jobs overseas and puts downward pressure on the wages of American workers as they are placed in more direct competition with poorly-paid, disempowered Peruvian workers.

Please contact your Senators and Representatives!

I'm glad to see that my presidential candidate, John Edwards, is once again taking the right position and leading on an issue where the other major Democratic presidential candidates are either taking the wrong position, or failing to lead. Edwards has been outspoken and clear on his position on this and just about every other issue. This reminds me of a quote from Harry Truman:

There is not a single, solitary man or woman in the United States today who can't find out in two minutes where I stand on the important matters like foreign policy, labor, agriculture, social security, housing, high prices, and all the other problems we as a nation have to face.

But there is not a single, solitary man or woman in the United States who has been able, within the last 2 months, to find out where the Republican candidate stands on these issues.

... except that where Harry Truman was talking about Republicans, we are now having a problem finding out where some of the Democratic candidates stand.

UPDATE I: THE HOUSE PASSED IT (From edgery)

Press Release by Secretary of State Condi Rice:

From: statelists@LISTS.STATE.GOV [mailto:statelists@LISTS.STATE.GOV]
Sent: Thursday, November 08, 2007 11:54 AM
To: DOSSEC@LISTS.STATE.GOV
Subject: House of Representatives Passage of the Peru Trade Promotion Agreement

House of Representatives Passage of the Peru Trade Promotion Agreement        
               
Statement by Secretary Condoleezza Rice                                        
House of Representatives Passage of the Peru Trade Promotion Agreement        
Washington, DC                                                                
November 8, 2007                                                              
                                                                       
I am very pleased by the House of Representatives' strong bipartisan approval of the Peru Trade Promotion Agreement. The Peru Trade Promotion Agreement's mutual benefits are clear. It benefits U.S. workers and farmers by giving our products the same treatment in Peru that Peru's exports enjoy in the United States. It helps Peru alleviate poverty by creating jobs and economic opportunities, sharing with the people of Peru the benefits of their democracy and open markets. Through the benefits of two-way trade, this agreement will reinforce the foundation of our deep and strong
relationship. The House of Representatives’ strong vote for this agreement demonstrates that the United States remains an active and committed partner in the hemisphere.
                                                           
I look forward to a Senate vote in the near future, and urge Congress to approve the pending trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea.    
                 
2007/980                                            

Released on November 8, 2007                                                  

************************************************************
See http://www.state.gov/... for all remarks by the Secretary of State.
********************************************************************************

UPDATE II:

EDWARDS STATEMENT ON HOUSE PASSAGE OF PERU TRADE DEAL

Chapel Hill, North Carolina – Today, Senator John Edwards released the following statement:

"I’m disappointed by today’s vote to approve the Peru trade deal and expand the failed NAFTA model that has cost us more than a million jobs.  However, I congratulate the 132 members – including a majority of the voting House Democrats – for their courage in standing up and voting against this flawed deal.  The vote should be an alarm bell for President Bush: other flawed trade deals, including South Korea and Columbia, need to be improved before they are brought before Congress.

"I believe that American workers and businesses can compete with any worker or company in the world as long as our government stands up and fights for a level playing field.  American workers deserve trade agreements that strengthen and maintain, rather than undercut and erode, labor rights, environmental standards and wages.

"While I believe Senator Obama is wrong to give this president authority to risk American jobs with more bad trade deals, at least he has taken a position. Unfortunately, Senator Clinton has still refused to take a position on this proposal. I believe voters deserve to hear the truth and I urge Senator Clinton to join me in calling on members of the Senate to reject the Peru trade deal in the coming weeks."

UPDATE III:

EDWARDS STATEMENT ON SENATOR CLINTON’S SUPPORT FOR THE PERU TRADE DEAL

Chapel Hill, North Carolina – Today, Senator John Edwards released the following statement expressing his disappointment in Senator Clinton’s support for the Peru trade deal:

"I am terribly disappointed by Senator Clinton’s support for the Peru trade deal. At a time when millions of Americans are concerned about losing their jobs and the economy, it is dismaying that Senator Clinton would side with corporations, their lobbyists and the Bush Administration in support of a flawed trade deal that expands the NAFTA model.

"As I have said before, there are real and serious differences in this presidential race, and our stands on this trade deal are another example. Whereas voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and all across America have learned that I will fight for safe and smart trade, now they see that Senator Clinton, by supporting this trade deal, has chosen to follow a very different path.

"It’s time for Senator Clinton to stand up for working Americans and stop defending corporate lobbyists and a broken system in Washington."

Originally posted to be inspired on Thu Nov 08, 2007 at 08:45 AM PST.

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