Action Alert — April 5, 2006

NAFTA Expansion and Immigration: Protests Rock the Hemisphere


Ecuadorians take to the streets to protest the Andean Free Trade Agreement (AFTA). Please sign a petition to Congress against AFTA, and see more photos from Ecuador.

Dear Fair Trade Supporter,

Massive protests for social and economic justice are rocking the hemisphere.

While hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets in the U.S. over the immigration issue, not forgotten are small farmers in Peru who called a national strike to try to stop the Peruvian government from signing a proposed "free trade" agreement with United States.[1] Days earlier, thousands of indigenous people and small farmers in neighboring Ecuador shut down major highways with massive protests to block their government from agreeing to a similar pact, one that negotiators hope to package with the Colombia and Peru deals into an Andean Free Trade Agreement (AFTA).[2] AFTA would extend the failed North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) model to South America.

Please take a moment to support the protests by signing our petition to Congress against reckless NAFTA expansion and sending it to your friends.

The protesters throughout the Americas know that under NAFTA, 1.3 million Mexican peasant farmers lost their livelihoods, hunger rates jumped, and desperate migration increased. As the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) pointed out in their resolution against the NAFTA expansion to Central America (CAFTA), "Undocumented migration to the US from Mexico has more that doubled since NAFTA was enacted."[3]

It's no surprise, then, that Andean farmers are choosing to protest rather than be forced through a "free trade" agreement's damage to follow the well-worn trail to the United States, where battles over immigration policy have recently inspired some of the biggest protests in U.S. history.

The myopia in Congress is stunning. It is clear that NAFTA and NAFTA-like policies implemented in Central and South America by the IMF and World Bank have caused economic crises that have forced millions to migrate to the United States, yet some Republican leaders in Congress continue to press for expanding NAFTA while decrying "illegal" immigration.

Let Congress know that a sane immigration plan must include fair trade policies that don't undermine the rural economies of our neighbors in Latin America.

Despite the chaos, Ecuadorian officials arrived in Washington, DC to try to finish the negotiations, and after signing the deal, outgoing Peruvian president Alejandro Toledo has announced that he intends to submit the agreement to a lameduck Peruvian congress, before the presidential election run-off - where the leading candidate opposes the FTA as it is currently conceived.[4]

The Andean country negotiators have been forced into a corner by the Bush administration as high-ranking Republicans in Congress have blackmailed them by threatening to let their poverty-stricken region's existing trade preferences expire at the end of the year if the countries don't submit to a full-fledged NAFTA expansion.[5]

The U.S. Congress can act on the U.S.-Peru deal, as well as a terrible similar deal with the Middle Eastern country of Oman at any time. We need to get 5,000 petition signatures fast.

Please sign the petition and send it to your friends.

Given that it's the Bush administration and U.S. corporations who are pushing this disaster, it is our special responsibility to help Andean small farmers and indigenous people put the stop to reckless NAFTA expansion and to force Congress to connect the dots between anti-poor trade policies and immigration.

Thanks for all that you do.

Global Trade Watch

P.S. For more about how trade policy is a key missing element of the immigration debate, check out David Sirota's April 2 article, "The taboo subject at the heart of the immigration debate."

[1] Read the call to action (in Spanish).
[2] "Free-trade protests grow in Ecuador," Al-Jazeera.Net, March 16, 2006.
[3] League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Resolution Supporting the Efforts of Fair Trade Advocates to Defeat the Passage of the Central American Free Trade Agreement, July 2, 2005.
[4] Robin Emmott, "Peru leftist candidates aim to scrap U.S. trade deal," Reuters, March 31, 2006.
[5] "House Delegation Warns Andean Countries To Improve FTA Offers," Inside U.S. Trade, Sept. 23, 2005.


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