Action Alert — January 25, 2006

Final AFTA Negotiations: Call Now!

The Bush administration has rejected an offer from Peru to include real labor provisions in the AFTA trade deal — despite 2,000 union members murdered in the Andean region over the past decade. Call Congress TODAY to demand they intervene in this week's final AFTA-NAFTA-expansion negotiations.

Dear Friends,

The Bush administration appears to be closing in fast on a new NAFTA-style trade agreement with three countries in South America — Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. Intense Bush administration pressure led to a terrible two-way agreement with Peru in December. Now, this week's negotiations could lock in the same mess with Colombia and Ecuador — making an Andean Free Trade Agreement (AFTA) NAFTA expansion.[1]

The proposed AFTA is a cookie-cutter copy of the same failed NAFTA and CAFTA model — bad news for us and them, but Corporate America will love it. But to make matters even worse, this deal would include Colombia, a labor-rights-free zone — where over 2,100 labor union activists have been assassinated since 1991.[2] Such a deal would spell the end of any meaningful leverage against the Colombian government's rampant human rights violations — literally an issue of life or death.

Tell your representatives that if they allow a NAFTA-style trade agreement with a country that lets thousands of union members be murdered, it'll cost them their jobs!

What makes this situation even more unbelievable is that Peruvian president Alejandro Toledo suggested including stronger labor provisions in AFTA, but this offer was harshly rejected by the Republican congressman in charge of trade policy, Rep. Bill Thomas (R-Calif.),[3] and is not included in the text of the U.S.-Peru deal reached in December that Colombia and Ecuador are being pressured now to join.[4]

The Bush administration is forcing a deal that will allow U.S. companies to relocate jobs to places where unions are suppressed with frequent assassinations-with absolutely no enforceable recourse for beleaguered workers.

The U.S.-Peru text is an outrage and the Bush administration needs to know that if this immoral, offensive text becomes the final text of an AFTA agreement during this week's negotiations with Colombia and Ecuador, that the CAFTA fight will look like a picnic in the park for them. But to send this message, we need to flood Congress with calls about AFTA.

Please call your representatives about AFTA-NAFTA Expansion and Colombia's murderous attacks on workers.

Advise them that if Congress allows the Bush administration to sign this deal, representatives and senators should expect to be held personally accountable for the next unionist murdered in Colombia.

And please forward this email to your friends and family and ask them to take a moment to do the same.

Our trade policy is spiraling out of control, endangering human rights and our national security, as well as threatening the fundamentals of our economy. But after the huge political cost to the administration and the Republican party of the one-vote margin on the CAFTA vote, we can stop AFTA dead in its tracks if we take action right now!

Thank you for all that you do,

The Global Trade Watch Team

p.s. For those of you working to hold your congressperson accountable for their bad pro-CAFTA vote it is important to tell folks to look no further than what we are fighting now — without the votes of a few misguided Democrats and Republicans who betrayed their constituents on CAFTA, we wouldn't now be considering a deal with a country where workers' lives, much less their rights, aren't protected.

AFTA, the Drug Trade, and National Security: According to experts, AFTA's proposed agricultural rules will likely lead to an increase in the production of the ingredients for cocaine and heroine, and more recruits for terrorist groups tied to the international drug trade. Deprived of other outlets to make a living, many Andean farmers will see no other choice but to grow coca or opium poppies, work for narco-traffickers, or in the case of Colombia, join clashing guerrilla and paramilitary armies.

Remember CAFTA and AIDS? AFTA is worse! Inside U.S. Trade just reported that the text of the U.S.-Peru agreement has even more corporate-friendly rules on intellectual property and pharmaceutical drugs than CAFTA.[5] Negotiators from both the Colombian and Peruvian intellectual property and health teams have resigned in protest, as AFTA-caused price increases for medicines could lead to unnecessary deaths from complications related to HIV and AIDS and hundreds of thousands of people would see less access to essential medicines in the Andean countries.

[1] Inti Landauro, "Colombia, Ecuador to Set Common Position in FTA Talks," Dow Jones Newswires, Jan. 16, 2006.
[2] Juan Forero, "Assassination is an Issue in Trade Talks," New York Times, Nov. 18, 2004. Available online.
[3] Martin Vaughan, "Dems See Andean Pact as Test of Cooperation on Trade," National Journal's Congress DailyAM, Sept. 29, 2005.
[4] Jeff Vogt, "USTR Obstacle to Progress on Labor Rights in Andean Region," Press Release, Washington Office on Latin America. PDF available.
[5] "U.S.-Peru FTA Offer Tighter Protection than CAFTA for Clinical Data," Inside U.S. Trade, Jan. 13, 2006. 


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