Group Urges Pressure on Candidates’ Trade Stances

Public Citizen has issued a call for activists to pressure candidates on trade issues in light of the global economic crisis. Representative Ehlers–who has consistently supported neoliberal trade agreements such as NAFTA–is ripe for such pressure.


Public Citizen–a nonprofit advocacy group fighting for government and corporate accountability–is calling on citizens to “Bird-Dog for Fair Trade:”

With less than a month to go before the election on November 4th and the whole nation riveted by global economic chaos, there’s no better time to discover where your federal candidates stand on globalization and fair trade policies. The momentum is on our side and support is growing for an end to the failed NAFTA/WTO model that has resulted in global financial instability, lost jobs, stagnant wages, a flood of unsafe imports, human rights abuses and harm to the environment.

Bird-dogging is an exciting way to make a huge impact. The ability to raise your issues in public so that your officials must deal with them, on-the-record, is the core of democratic action and accountability. Polls are showing that globalization and trade issues are of widespread interest to voters, so bird-dogging on the issue provides a public service, letting everyone know clearly where the candidates stand.

The organization is asking people to get in touch with them for help in holding legislators accountable for their support of neoliberal trade polices. In addition, the organization has prepared a series of guides to “Key Votes in Congress” that shows how Michigan legislators have voted on trade policies.

Here in West Michigan, an obvious place to start would be with Representative Vern Ehlers. Ehlers has consistently supported neoliberal trade policies such as the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and others.

In a voters guide from, Ehlers said the following in response to the question “What is your position on U.S. trade laws:”

Since the end of World War II, the United States has pursued long-term policies aimed at lowering worldwide trade barriers. These policies benefit us since trade opens new markets for U.S. companies. American companies are the most efficient and productive enterprises in the world, and 60 years of mostly sustained economic growth has proven the benefits of free trade. Also, stronger economic ties between countries foster good diplomatic relations. Countries that share in the benefits of trade have incentives to work out disagreements diplomatically rather than using other avenues, particularly over issues such as labor standards, environmental protection and human rights. As we consider our trade policies, we must ensure that U.S. goods may enter foreign markets on the same terms that goods from other countries enter ours. I have concerns about a trade agreement with South Korea since U.S. lightweight trucks are not provided equal access to the Korean market. Also, I have major concerns about China’s devaluation of currency since it creates an unfair trade advantage, and I support imposing tariffs on Chinese goods if China does not reform its intellectual property practices.

Author: mediamouse

Grand Rapids independent media //