Trade News for State & Local Officials

Spring 2008

Invitation to a Conference Call:

Removing WTO Barriers to Our Climate Change and Health Care Solutions, Part I: Climate Change

Thursday, June 19th at 4pm EDT
Speaker: Todd Tucker, Research Director, Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch

U.S. states have taken steps forward to implement many innovative health care and climate change policies that are only now being discussed by presidential candidates and in Congress, such as mechanisms to expand health care coverage, lower medicine prices, and adopt renewable portfolio standards (RPS). As these common sense and desperately needed reforms are receiving increased national attention, various corporate sectors here and overseas have begun raising the specter that these initiatives violate World Trade Organization (WTO) rules.

Unfortunately, some existing U.S. WTO commitments may conflict with these policies. The likelihood of such state policies being challenged as WTO "barriers to trade" will only increase as these proposals receive more attention. This reality underscores the need for comprehensive changes to our trade policy, as well as a more transparent and democratic process for negotiating trade agreements in the future, to ensure that our domestic policy space is not undermined by "trade" rules.

Please join us for a conference call on Thursday, June 19th at 4pm EDT to find out how existing WTO rules conflict with critical climate change solutions and what you can do. You will hear more about:

  • What WTO modifications are necessary to implement the climate change solutions that the presidential candidates are discussing;
  • Options for your state to safeguard its domestic policy space from expansive WTO rules; and
  • How we can build consensus around a new trade negotiating process that includes meaningful consultation with states.

Click here to RSVP or contact Sarah Edelman for more information at (202) 454-5193.


Climate Change Priorities Require WTO Modifications

Some aspects of the WTO's expansive non-trade rules have already proved to be problematic for consumer safety and state policy space regarding procurement and service sector regulation. We have witnessed WTO rules being invoked to successfully challenge U.S. Internet gambling law and to set limits on food and product import safety standards and inspection rates. WTO rules limit certain areas of federal, state and local policy space that have nothing to do with trade. Public Citizen recently prepared a report that shows how WTO commitments that the United States made in 1994 conflict with a number of innovative proposals to tackle critical issues like health care and climate change.

A number of climate change proposals fall under WTO jurisdiction, including:

  • Increased CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency) standards;
  • New regulation of coal-fired electric plants; and
  • Green procurement proposals and green industry subsidies.

Read the full Public Citizen report here.

Better State-Federal Consultation on Trade Needed

Last year, state and local officials in over a dozen states urged Congress to replace the outdated Fast Track process with a more inclusive and democratic process that includes meaningful input from states. Fast Track expired in June 2007, but a new president in 2009 may well seek a new trade negotiating authority from Congress. A unique opportunity now exists to ensure that the next trade debate in Congress will be about how to create a new more inclusive, open process for negotiating future trade agreements that provides opportunities for more affected parties - including state and local officials - to have a meaningful role in ensuring our future trade agreements harness the benefits of trade without undermining domestic non-trade policy space needed to address the many challenges facing our nation.

Please take a minute to fill out our online survey to give your view on what elements would comprise an improved new state-federal consultation process on trade negotiations. Your thoughts are vital to state and local officials being able to develop a new framework for a more inclusive and democratic process that can become part of the future debate.

Click here to fill out our online survey on trade.

To join the network of state and local officials working to create a winning new trade policy that safeguards state sovereignty and democracy in trade agreements, please contact Sarah Edelman at (202) 454-5193 or sedelman@citizen.org.

Thanks for all that you do!

Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch

Take Public Citizen's new survey for state legislators on trade issues!

States in general and state legislators in particular continue to be largely ignored in the trade negotiating process, although many of today's trade agreements undermine traditional areas of state domestic regulatory authority, including procurement, service sector policy regarding energy, health care and education as well as land-use and local investment policies. With the expiration of Fast Track last June, policy-makers in many states have begun working towards developing new more inclusive policy-making processes on trade that would provide states meaningful input into the negotiating process.

Please take a minute to fill out our survey on what elements you think are critical to a new state-federal consultation process on trade and be a part of the network of state legislators across the country working towards improving trade policy-making.

Click here to fill out our easy-to-do online survey.

Speaker Pelosi Removes Fast Track Treatment from Colombia FTA

In a historic move, Speaker Nancy Pelosi introduced a rule change in the House to remove the Fast Track mandatory 60-days vote requirement from the Colombia FTA. Her action came in response to President Bush's unprecedented move to force the Colombia FTA vote by sending it to Congress without agreement from the congressional leadership. President Bush's action was the first time since Fast Track's initial passage in 1974 that a president sent a trade agreement to Congress over the objections of Congressional leadership. Read Global Trade Watch Director Lori Wallach's statement praising Speaker Pelosi for reasserting Congress' constitutional trade authority.

USTR Refuses to Release Outcome of WTO Gambling Case Compensation Talks Decreeing the Document is Classified and a "National Security" Secret

The United States is still in arbitration with Antigua over compensation for withdrawing the gambling sector from its schedule of WTO commitments in the continuing saga of the WTO ruling against U.S. Internet gambling policy. Recently, the United States Trade Representative (USTR) negotiated compensation with the EU, Canada, Japan and Costa Rica but is refusing to release the documents, claiming they are classified for "national security" reasons.

Instead of taking the opportunity to learn from the colossal mistake of committing gambling to the WTO and start including elected officials and the public in the process, the USTR is continuing to conduct U.S. trade policy in a shroud of secrecy. In February, the USTR rejected a Freedom of Information Act request for the documents. Public Citizen filed a lawsuit this week to challenge the outrageous classification of the settlement terms. Click here to read the press release.

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