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Secretary Rice, CFR Usher in Pan-American Community
Trade Agreements for Peru, Colombia and Panama Have 'Concluded' Forming an "Unbroken Chain of Trading Partners from Tierra del Fuego to the Arctic Circle" that Will "Level" U.S. Wages

Aaron Dykes / JonesReport.com | October 16, 2007

 

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made remarks at the C.F.R. hosted Organization of American States event on October 9 that the "concluded" trade agreements with Peru, Colombia and Panama are a significant step towards the broader 'vision' of a Pan-American Community.

"The founding ideal of our Pan-American Community, borne across many centuries and carried by us still, is the hope that life in the hemisphere would signify a break with the Old World, and a new beginning for all mankind... and the creation of a new system of international politics, based on mutual respect and cooperation among independent nations."

The agreements would break down more than 80% of tariffs in respect to each of the three countries for both exports and imports and would include more than $17 billion in debt relief-- extending action already taken under the Millennium Challenge Corporation in 2004-2005.

These agreements come just after the passage of CAFTA, rapidly bringing ten additional countries into a hemispheric trade bloc (on top of existing trade blocs MERCOSUR and CAN).

"We now have the potential to create an unbroken chain of trading partners from Tierra del Fuego to the Arctic Circle," Rice told the OAS.

"Today, we are making a similar strategic commitment in our hemisphere, to the success of our Pan-American Community. This commitment was begun in the last decade by leaders of both parties. Now it is being advanced further."

Since the executive branch lost fast-track renewal in June, the trade agreements must be passed by Congress, but Rice indicated that bipartisan support has already been arranged by way of "43 prominent Democrats-- former ambassadors, cabinet officials, policy experts and members of Congress."

President Bush mirrored Rice's optimism about bipartisan support for the agreements, which also include South Korea, citing former Secretary Shalala (and dozens of her Democratic colleagues): "Latin America is up for grabs. We fully recognize that asking the United States Congress to vote on these trade agreements is politically charged. Nonetheless, rejecting these agreements would set back regional U.S. interests for a generation. We must not walk away now."

However, a recent poll shows that 6-in-10 Republican voters now "believe free trade is bad for the U.S. economy" -- which brings Republicans in-line with the standing views of Democrats.

 

Condoleezza Rice warned against the message it would send internationally if the trade agreements didn't go through, and asked that U.S. workers facing "dislocation" and "insecurity" 'update their skills' and pursue "retraining," suggesting the role of 'community college' in "giving people a second or even a third or sometimes a fourth start on a different kind of career."

The frightening suggestion of American job degradation was also echoed by Bush's remarks on the new trade agreements.

"And yet, many of our citizens feel uneasy about competition, and they worry that trade will cost jobs. I understand that if you're forced to change a job halfway through a career it can be painful for your family. I know that. And that is why I'm a big believer in trade adjustment assistance that helps Americans make the transition from one job to the next...the community college system, for example, to be able to train that person for jobs which actually exist." [emphasis added]

Secretary Rice added, "if we don't, then we're going to remain fearful and closed"-- clearly valuing 'free trade' above any semblance of protection for middle-America jobs, despite her claim it will actually benefit workers:

"These trade agreements will benefit U.S. workers and businesses, enabling them to compete on a level playing field in new markets, to create jobs and opportunity in our nation, and to address the wealth of all in our economy."

The meaning of 'a level playing field' was not clarified, but perhaps it relates to former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan's recent call for lowering U.S. wages and opening the borders on David Letterman's Late Show:

"We ought to be opening up our borders to skilled labor from all parts of the world because if we were to do that we would increase the supply of skilled workers that our schools have been unable to create and as a consequence of that we would lower the average wage of skills and reduce the degree of income inequality in this country."

Secretary Rice focused on the "democratic" unity amongst the countries in trade agreement and warned against sending a "signal" of "retreat" by rejecting the agreements.

"Building on the foundation that Presidents Bush and Clinton laid with NAFTA, we have concluded trade agreements with ten additional countries... a community that now includes Costa Rica, whose people voted just two days ago to approve CAFTA."

Costa Rica narrowly passed CAFTA in a referendum that has already been contested, sealing the trade pact with El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic and the United States. More than 150,000 Costa Ricans protested the agreement and the Los Angeles Times and AlterNet reported that voting was under 'duress,' including a campaign of threats and pressure, according to a leaked memo:

The memo, as the Los Angeles Times described it, "outlined a campaign of dirty tricks intended to sway voters." This included telling mayors that their cities would "not get a penny from the government for the next three years" if they did not deliver a majority of voters for CAFTA. In the words of the memo, the government also needed to "stimulate fear" among the voters, including "fear of the loss of jobs."

The Bush Administration joined the campaign to "stimulate fear," with the U.S. Ambassador threatening that Costa Rica could lose some of it existing access to U.S. markets if the voters reject CAFTA.

Rice and Bush brushed aside worries about the three Latin American nations, particularly the narco-state Colombia, citing the strength of their democratic values-- and hanging it in the balance with Cuba and unnamed "authoritarian" states with "state-run economies" (i.e. Venezuela).

"In truth, this is a backward-looking agenda with a long history of deepening poverty and misery. The real revolution in the Americas today is being led by responsible democratic leaders, like Bachelet and Lula, Vazquez and Uribe, Garcia and Torrijos, Calderon and Saca.

Their democratic governments, and many others, from left to right, are deepening the Pan-American consensus on creating opportunity for all through free markets, economic growth and democracy."

Rice argues for Colombia's "trajectory of positive change," calling its '76% reduction in kidnappings,' '40% drop in murder rate' and '61% fewer terrorist attacks' one of the "greatest victories for the cause of human rights in our world today.

President Bush was just as willing to forgive Colombia's dark record. "Some in Congress have expressed concern over violence in Colombia ...Colombia's record is not perfect, but the country is clearly headed in the right direction -- and is asking for our help."

Bush even cited Canada's leader as a selling point.

As Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada put it, "If the United States turns its back on its friends in Colombia, this will set back our cause far more than any Latin American dictator could hope to achieve."

Similar broad strokes were made for the sins of Peru and Panama, hoping to keep such issues off the radar of most Americans.

Yet, former Mexican President Vicente Fox-- who also signed the Security & Prosperity Partnership for North America (SPP)-- has been recently parading calls for a North American Union and a unified NAFTA currency.

Drastic measures towards large-scale regional government are happening overnight and yet there is almost no discussion whatsoever. Beyond the elites and their controlled media, there is little outcry and scarcely more than a whisper of announcement.

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