Levin Explains Peru FTA Vote

On Tuesday, Senator Levin voted in support of the Peru Free Trade Agreement (Peru FTA). At the time, a statement was not available explaining his vote, but he has since issued one claiming that the labor and environmental provisions made the agreement worth supporting. Despite Levin’s claims, not a single environmental or labor group in the U.S. supported the agreement.

photo of carl levin

Earlier this week, Media Mouse reported on the passage of the Peru Free Trade Agreement in the Senate. At the time, we noted that Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow opposed the agreement and issued a statement explaining why. However, Carl Levin supported the agreement but had issued no statement explaining his vote. He has since issued a statement in which he explains why he supported it.

Levin argues that the Peru FTA is “a historic breakthrough” on trade and credits his brother Sander Levin for the agreement. He cites the labor chapter, which he argues “requires both the United States and Peru to adopt and maintain domestic laws to implement the five core standards incorporated in the 1998 ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.” He also said that the environmental standards are stronger than they have been in previous agreements. Levin attributed these changes from past trade agreements to the fact that the agreement was negotiated without “Fast Track Authority” and–unlike trade agreements that come up under Fast Track–could be amended.

However, despite Levin’s praise for the agreement, it was not endorsed by any labor, environmental, Latino, consumer, faith, or family farm group in the United States according to a statement put out by Public Citizen. The environmental and labor provisions were criticized before the vote and other provisions were problematic according to Public Citizen:

“The Peru NAFTA expansion replicates many of the CAFTA provisions that led most Democratic senators to oppose that pact. This includes: foreign investor privileges that create incentives for U.S. firms to move offshore and expose basic environmental, health, zoning and other laws to attack in foreign tribunals; bans on “Buy America” and anti-offshoring policies; limits on food import safety standards and inspection rates; and NAFTA-style agriculture rules that are projected to displace tens of thousands of Peru’s Andean farmers and thus increase coca production and immigration. The pact also contains terms that could subject Peru to compensation claims for reversing its unpopular Social Security privatization, the same system Democrats fought against at home.”

Despite these criticisms, Levin said that:

“I have opposed trade agreements when they were in the same failed mold as our past trade policy, when they clearly were not requiring a more level playing field for U.S. manufacturers, farmers and service sector employees and when they failed to insist on basic internationally recognized labor and environmental standards. However, I have supported trade agreements that leveled the playing field and that did include strong and enforceable internationally recognized labor and environmental standards.”

For the most part, his statement is true. In 2005, Levin voted against the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). In 2002, he voted against granting President Bush fast-track authority to negotiate trade agreements. In 1993, Levin voted against the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). However, in 2000 he voted to grant China “most favored nation” status on trade and in 1994 voted in support of legislation implementing the Uruguay round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) that created the World Trade Organization (WTO). Levin also supported the Singapore FTA in 2003 and the Australian FTA in 2004.

Another worthwhile follow-up to the original article on the passage of the Peru Free Trade Agreement is looking at statements issued by the five presidential candidates that failed to vote on the agreement. Two of them, Democrats Joe Biden and Chris Dodd opposed the agreement, yet rather than using the mechanism that exists in the Senate to express opposition against a piece of legislation–voting against it–they refrained from voting. Similarly, Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, both of whom support the agreement, did not vote. Republican presidential candidate John McCain also supports the agreement but did not vote.

Author: mediamouse

Grand Rapids independent media // mediamouse.org