(31 July 2001)--A diverse crowd of citizens converged on the office of Congressman Earl Blumenauer this afternoon to voice their demand that he vote against legislation giving President Bush greater authority to negotiate trade agreements. Fast Track legislation, which could come up for a vote by August 3rd in the US House of Representatives, allows President Bush to negotiate future trade agreements and submit them to Congress for an up or down vote, with no possibility for amendments. This has drawn the concern of Democrats and Republicans alike, who are members of a wide array of groups: city councils, environmental groups, farmers, labor unions and the faith community. |
"Within the next few years we could see a vote on the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), which expands NAFTA to the rest of the hemisphere, and the expansion of the World Trade Organization. These are contentious issues that deserve the full oversight and participation of Congress, but Fast Track legislation would ensure that this doesn't happen," says Kate Lore, Social Justice Director of the First Unitarian Church of Portland.
Ryan Hunter, Trade Organizer for the Alliance for Sustainable Jobs and the Environment, believes that Congressman Blumenauer will play an important role in determining whether such trade agreements will be subjected to the scrutiny of Congress, or whether President Bush will be given a free hand to negotiate them.
"Congressman Blumenauer has voted for free trade legislation in the past, yet his constituents are overwhelmingly opposed to free trade that puts corporate profits before workers and the environment. We're here to tell him that his constituents want him to vote no on Fast Track, because we don't trust that President Bush will negotiate trade agreements that are in our interests," says Hunter.
Joe Schneider of the Cross Border Labor Organizing Coalition adds that, "Recent studies by the Economic Policy Institute (NAFTA At Seven) and Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch (Down On The Farm, NAFTA's Seven Years War On Farmers) have laid out in detail how NAFTA has hurt working people, farmers and ranchers while showering wealth on multinational corporations. Despite the lack of thorough coverage of these issues by the mainstream media, people are beginning to question whether or not free trade agreements really help anyone other than heads of corporations."
Chris Frost of the Portland Jobs with Justice has been doing education and outreach on Fast Track in Southeast Portland. "I've been impressed with the level of knowledge that Earl's constituents have shown on this topic. However, many people I've talked to are shocked to learn that their Representative is pro free trade. This has inspired many of them to call Blumenauer's office to express their concern. We hope the rally today adds additional pressure for Rep. Blumenauer to do the right thing," Frost says.