Fast Track is a Flop!

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Floppy Disk Petition Urges Senator Wyden to Oppose Outdated Trade Policy

Floppy Disk Petition Urges Senator Wyden to Oppose Outdated Trade Policy

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Over 10,000 Petition Signatures Adhered to Floppy Disks Delivered to Senator’s Offices Across the State

Portland, Ore. — Fair trade advocates delivered over 10,000 petition signatures adhered to old-fashioned 5.25″ floppy diskettes to Senator Ron Wyden’s offices throughout the state this week.  The petition, spearheaded by the Oregon Fair Trade Campaign and Fight for the Future, urges the Senator to oppose the renewal of 1970s-era “Fast Track” legislation, which they say would rubber-stamp trade pacts that threaten Oregon high-tech jobs, digital privacy and freedom on the Internet.  Senator Wyden recently became chair of the powerful U.S. Senate Finance Committee and will determine whether or not the expired Fast Track process is resurrected.

“Fast Track is an outdated and inappropriate way to negotiate and approve 21st Century trade agreements,” said Elizabeth Swager ”It would enable trade negotiators to keep their proposals hidden from the American public until after negotiations have concluded, pacts are signed and amendments are prohibited.  Our floppy disk petition urges Senator Wyden to recognize that Fast Track is obsolete in this day and age.”

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Oregon Exports Hurting Under Korea Free Trade Agreement

As Oregon’s Congressional delegation considers whether to “fast track” the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Free Trade Agreement, new government data indicates that President Obama’s largest similar trade pact to date — the Korea Free Trade Agreement — has had a negative impact on exports from Oregon and throughout the nation.

The Korea Free Trade Agreement reached its second anniversary on March 15, 2014. U.S. International Trade Commission data on trade with South Korea is currently available through the end of December 2013. That data shows that the United States’ monthly bilateral trade deficit has increased 49% under the pact. The Economic Policy Institute estimated that the increase in imports and decrease in exports under the Korea Free Trade Agreement cost the United States about 40,000 jobs in the first year alone.

Specific to Oregon, government data shows that:

  • Oregon’s overall exports to South Korea were down 11% in the year after the Korea Free Trade Agreement’s implementation compared to the year before.
  • This equates to $116.7 million in reduced Oregon exports.
  • Continue reading

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20 Years of NAFTA is Enough! Oregon Rallies to Stop the TPP.

January 2014 marked the twenty-year anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a pact that has had devastating consequences for people and the environment in all three countries (the US, Canada, and Mexico) and beyond. The pending Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has been described as “NAFTA on Steroids,”and threatens to:

◾Destroy livelihoods – accelerating the global race to the bottom in wages and working conditions
◾Further commodify agriculture, trample food sovereignty, hurt small farmers and contribute to forced migration
◾Enable corporate attacks on environmental policies to combat climate change
◾Reduce access to life-saving generic medications – raising drug prices

Across the state, labor, environmental, human rights and community activists came together to protest 20 years of NAFTA and to say no to the TPP and Fast Track! Continue reading

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Daniel Bonham Trade Justice Award 2013

We are please to announce that our annual volunteer award goes to Wes Brain from Ashland, OR, who has been a leader for trade justice with the Oregon Fair Trade Campaign (ORFTC) before we were ORFTC. The Alliance for Sustainable Jobs and the Environment (ASJE) in Oregon was the precursor to ORFTC and was founded in 1999. Wes Brain was one of the first elected board of directors, representing the labor caucus. The Alliance for Sustainable Jobs and the Environment brought together rank-and-file laborers and environmental activists in a strategic alliance that worked to challenge economic policies that destroy good jobs and a healthy environment. As ORFTC does today, ASJE worked to build a world where nature is protected, the worker is respected, and unrestrained corporate power is rejected though grassroots organizing, education, and action. Wes has been at the forefront of the trade justice battle, sharing his talent for bringing together unlikely allies for the mutual and far-reaching benefits of our coalition. He has been the lead organizer on multiple trade justice demonstrations, educational events and lobby visits. He has housed, fed and trained ORFTC organizers, fundraised for the coalition, and helped shape its direction. Continue reading

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Fair Trade Advocates Praise Congressional Demands for Oversight Over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

Portland, OR — Fair trade advocates praised the release of a new letter voicing Congressional opposition to Fast Track, a policy-making process that allows trade pacts to circumvent ordinary Congressional review, amendment and debate procedures. The letter spearheaded by Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and George Miller (D-CA), was signed by three quarters of the House Democratic Caucus including Oregon Congressmen Kurt Schrader and Peter DeFazio. Representatives Earl Blumeanuer and Suzanne Bonamici also signed onto another letter signalling concerns over Fast Track. Taken together, the letters demonstrate a strong demand from Oregon’s delegation for better oversight over the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Free Trade Agreement than Fast Track would allow.

“With trade negotiators rushing to conclude the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership, it’s heartening that so many Members of Congress are standing up and demanding that each provision of the pact be scrutinized to ensure that it is in the best interests of working families,” said United Brotherhood of Carpenters General President Douglas J. McCarron.  ”The middle class cannot afford for the TPP to become a ‘NAFTA of the Pacific,’ and at this stage in the game, only real Congressional oversight and intervention will prevent that from occurring.”

“The Trans-Pacific deal will affect working families, environmental protections, energy policy, food safety and more,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune.  ”Congress is right to want to do its job and have oversight over expansive trade pacts.  Using Fast Track is like removing the seat belts and airbags from a vehicle and racing it toward its final destination.  It’s an egregious way to speed up trade deals, which all too often put foreign corporations before families and communities.”

The 151-signature DeLauro-Miller letter sent to the President states, “we will oppose ‘Fast Track’ Trade Promotion Authority or any other mechanism delegating Congress’ constitutional authority over trade policy that continues to exclude us from having a meaningful role in the formative states of trade agreements and throughout negotiating and approval processes.” Continue reading

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Failed trade policy and forced migration.

By Laura Bolaños-Ramirez, Portland Jobs with Justice & ORFTC Intern

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is an agreement signed by the United States, Mexico, and Canada. The agreement came into force on January 1, 1994. Mexicans were told that increases in trade, forging direct investment and exports would raise income and the standards of living. It was claimed that NAFTA would be so beneficial to Mexican workers that immigration would be reduced by two-thirds by the year 2000. Research has revealed the contrary, only 10% of the population has seen higher standards of living. With millions of jobs made obsolete and destroyed by cheap imports from the United States, thousands of Mexicans were left with no choice, but to migrate to the U.S. in search of work.

Alejandro Lopez a day laborer who first migrated to the U.S. when he was 26 years old stated, “Before I migrated to the U.S. I tried to find a job in Mexico, so I went to other states and cities looking for work, but it was hard to find something that was permanent, especially in agriculture, and I had no other option rather than to migrate. I have tried to go back and establish my own little business, selling food, fresh fruits and vegetables, and dairy’s. But, people bought what they could afford with the money they had, so they choose the cheaper products that often were those imported from the United States. I’ve try four times to establish a small business in Mexico and every time I failed because people chose to buy the cheaper products, so I have no other option then to stay in the US to support my family.”

U.S. Census data shows that rather than decreasing, the number of Mexican-born people living in the United States increased by more than 80% between 1990 and 2000. Continue reading

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Welcome Benjamin Gerritz, ORFTC’s Newest Board Member!

Senator Jeff Merkley (left) shaking hands with Benjamin Gerritz (right)Benjamin Gerritz is a native Oregonian, a strong leader with SEIU 503 and a dedicated member of Positive Force NW, a community-led group of HIV+ individuals working to eliminate HIV/AIDS-related stigma through social, educational, cultural, and recreational events, and community service projects.

Benjamin first became involved with ORFTC when he spoke at the Portland Peoples’ Assembly back in April where he told the audience, “This one pill I’m holding cost $64 or equivalent to $2,000 a month. For this price one would think it made of solid gold but for 34 million HIV+ people across the globe including me it might as well be as many of us would not be here today without it…The TPP would roll back internationally-held public health safeguards imposing rules and regulations to keep medicine prices high and out of reach of millions.” His personal testimony on the impact of the TPP on people living with HIV touched people in a way that data and statistics just can’t.

Since then he has been reaching out to Representatives Bonamici and Blumenauer and Senators Wyden and Merkley to ask them to oppose the TPP and Fast Track at every opportunity.

He is a truly inspirational social justice champion and Oregon Fair Trade Campaign will benefit greatly from his insights and experience serving on the board of directors.

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OR AFL-CIO Resolution on the TPP and Europe/U.S. Free Trade Agreement

At the Oregon AFL-CIO 2013 Convention this weekend in Bend, OR delegates voted unanimously for Resolution 21 to OPPOSE THE TRANS-PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP (TPP) and TRANSATLANTIC and INVESTMENT PARTNERSHIP (TTIP)!

The TPP is far, far larger than the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in both its economic scale and its potential to undercut wages and worker power throughout the globe.

Thank you OR AFL-CIO for standing for workers and opposing a race-to-the-bottom trade deal that would devastate labor for decades to come.

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Video: Global Worker Solidarity Against the Trans-Pacific Partnership!

Strong message of global solidarity from our friend Celeste Drake, AFL-CIO’s trade expert who met with some of our Oregon labor leaders in Portland last month. Please don’t miss the powerful video on the TPP below!

Don’t Let Corporations Hijack Another Trade Deal

It’s happening right now, behind closed doors, and most people don’t even know about it.

Trade representatives from the United States and nearly a dozen other countries are negotiating the largest free trade agreement in U.S. history—the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Free Trade Agreement. And it could mean corporations gain even more power over everything from the wages you make to how clean your drinking water is to the safety of your kids’ toys.

We’ve put together this video of some of the working people across the world who are speaking out about the TPP and its consequences.
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Take Action to End Labor Abuses & Protect Family-Wage Jobs

WRC_Vietnam_Briefing_PaperFollowing President Obama’s meeting with Vietnamese President Troung Tan Sang last week to discuss the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), we are calling for TPP negotiations with Vietnam to be suspended until the Vietnamese government demonstrates that it has brought labor and human rights abuses to an end.
It’s no accident that average American families have seen our incomes decline over the last 20 years as politicians from both parties have signed “free trade” agreements that do nothing but trade away family-wage jobs, worker rights and food and consumer safety standards.  The U.S. and the world cannot afford more race-to-the-bottom trade pacts that put corporate profits above human beings.
Now politicians are trying to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement, which would freely trade good American jobs and benefits for products produced in countries like Vietnam by workers who are forced to labor in sweatshops under unsafe working conditions.
A recent report by the Worker Rights Consortium entitled, “Made in Vietnam: Labor Rights Violations in Vietnam’s Export Manufacturing Sector,” provides concrete examples of how the Vietnamese government and unscrupulous employers maintain a low-wage regime:
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Protest in Canada to demand “an end to the silence” on the TPP

Fair trade activists put the spotlight on secretive international trade negotiations in Vancouver B.C.

Negotiators from 11 Pacific Rim countries met quietly in Vancouver to set new investment rules within the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). No announcement of this “intersessional” on investment was made to the public or the media. People in Canada first learned about this TPP ‘mini’ negotiation from an article in the Peruvian media on Friday June 16th, just days before the weekend negotiations. It was later confirmed by iPolitics.ca with no other details and has since been acknowledged by the federal government in a brief statement concluding the intersessional talks.

“It’s long past time to end the silence on the TPP,” says Kristen Beifus of the Washington Fair Trade Coalition. “It’s outrageous that this investor rights treaty is being developed behind closed doors. What they are negotiating will impact all of us, just as NAFTA has for 20 years, and we deserve to know what is being negotiated in our name.”

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What’s on the Table? TPP threatens Oregon’s food safety, dairy farmers and the environment

lawrenceOn May 21st, 2013 State Rep. Brad Witt held an informal hearing on the Trans-Pacific Partnership in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee that he chairs.
This hearing could not have been more timely as thousands across the globe gathered to protest Monsanto’s GMOs. Monsanto is one of the 600 corporations pushing for the TPP; they want to use this free trade agreement as a tool to force genetically modified seeds and foods onto countries regardless of existing laws and regulations.
The Committee heard testimony on the TPP’s impact on food safety standards that affect not only whether Oregon consumers will have to eat products that don’t meet our domestic safety standards, but also whether Oregon producers will have to compete with overseas fish farms, industrial fruit and vegetable operations and others that aren’t bound by the same standards as they are.
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Seven Reasons to Fight the TPP

By Arthur Stamoulis

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a massive new trade and investment pact being pushed by the U.S. government at the behest of transnational corporations, threatening the economy, environment and public health both at home and abroad.

The TPP is currently being negotiated behind closed doors by the United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam — but it is also specifically intended as a “docking agreement” that other Pacific Rim countries will join over time, with Japan, the Philippines, Thailand, South Korea and others already expressing some interest in doing so.  Negotiations are scheduled to conclude in October 2013. International campaigners are fighting hard to prevent the deal from going through.

The TPP is said to contain 29 separate chapters, covering everything from food safety standards to banking regulations.

Here are some of the many reasons activists are fighting the current direction of the TPP:

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400+ Organizations Speak Out on the TPP & Fast Track

Over 400 organizations across the country, representing more than 15 million Americans, signed the letter to Congress expressing deep concerns about the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and opposition to the outdated “Fast Track” trade negotiating and approval process. Here in Oregon we got tremendous support from labor with Oregon AFL-CIO, the Northwest Oregon Labor Council, Linn-Benton-Lincoln Central Labor Council, Oregon AFSCME, SEIU 503 and many more locals and community groups that signed on.

The joint letter was submitted to Congress just one business day after the President included Fast Track in his 2013 Trade Policy Agenda, and the same day as negotiators from 11 countries throughout the Pacific Rim met in Singapore for a new round of talks aimed at pushing the TPP towards conclusion.

Fast Track excludes Congress from having a meaningful role in the formative stages of trade agreements by allowing agreements to be signed by the president before Congress votes on them. We need members of Congress to commit to opposing any delegation of Congress’s authority on trade policymaking.

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Oregon Among the States Hit Hardest by Offshoring in 2012

AWPPW-obama-picketGovernment Data Shows Oregon Lost 4th Most Jobs in Country by Population; Trans-Pacific Partnership Could Accelerate Job Loss Even Further

Portland, Ore. —  An  Oregon fair trade advocacy coalition has released a new analysis of U.S. Labor Department data showing that Oregon lost the fourth most jobs to offshoring out of any state in the country in 2012 when measured by population.

“The data clearly shows that, year after year, trade agreements have been bleeding Oregon communities of much-needed jobs. 106 mill workers in St. Helens were just laid off from Boise White Paper” said Greg Pallesen, Vice President of the Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers.  “Rather than stopping the outgoing flow of jobs, this new Trans-Pacific Partnership is likely to open up an artery.”

The newly compiled data released today by the Oregon Fair Trade Campaign shows that the Labor Department certified 1,911 Oregon jobs as destroyed by either direct offshoring or displacement by imports in 2012, which is a 34% increase over 2011 and brings the total number of trade-displaced jobs certified by the Labor Department in the state since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) took effect in 1994 up to 55,085. Continue reading

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Historic Cross-Border Organizing Summit to Defeat the TPP

ORFTC brought over a busload of volunteer organizers to the historic Cross-Border Organizing Summit & Rally against the Trans-Pacific Partnership taking place along the U.S./Canada border in Blaine, Washington on Saturday, December 1.  [Check out photos on our Facebook page.]

The Blaine summit and rally’s organizing partners included the AFL-CIO, Citizens Trade Campaign, Council of Canadians, Sierra Club and over a dozen other regional social justice organizations.  ORFTC supplied the piñata.

Among several initiatives launched at the organizing summit was a new North American Unity Statement Opposing NAFTA Expansion through the TPP, and a goal of reaching over 1,000 organizational sign-on’s by early 2013.  ORFTC urges groups to add their names to it.

To get updated on next steps in the campaign, please sign up for monthly briefing calls or email elizabeth@oregonfairtrade.org.

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New Legislation Would Prevent Another NAFTA

As trade negotiators rush to complete the massive new Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Free Trade Agreement, we need your help encouraging our elected officials to stand up and declare an end to business-as-usual trade policy.

Please email Senators Wyden and Merkley now and urge them to cosponsor critical fair trade legislation called The 21st Century Trade and Market Access Act to ensure we aren’t saddled with a new “NAFTA of the Pacific.”

First introduced by Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, The 21st Century Trade and Market Access Act reasserts Congressional and public oversight over the TPP and future trade policies.  It sets a range of binding negotiating requirements regarding labor rights, the environment, food safety and other provisions that are needed to ensure that the TPP and other pacts actually improve life for ordinary working people in Oregon and throughout the world. Continue reading

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What Are They Hiding?

The United States hosted the 14th major round of behind-closed-door negotiations on the new Trans-Pacific Free Trade Agreement in Virginia this September.

Despite having reportedly introduced text for some 29 different chapters, the U.S. Trade Representative has barred ordinary Americans from reviewing any of its proposals.  Even Senator Ron Wyden (D – Ore.) who chairs the Senate Trade Subcommittee charged with reviewing trade policy was initially refused access to TPP negotiating documents.

Meanwhile, approximately 600 corporate lobbyists have regular access to the negotiating texts as so-called “cleared advisors.”  This sort of back-room dealmaking only benefits the 1% and has to end.  In May, ORFTC helped deliver over 42,000 petition signatures urging that USTR inform the American public what its been proposing in our names.  That request has been flatly refused.  Over 700,000 have since signed this petition from Avaaz (which you can help push over the million signer mark by signing and sharing).

It’s also time for elected officials to intervene. TAKE ACTION NOW:  Urge Congress to demand transparency in the TPP.

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RIP Daniel Bonham

Daniel BonhamLong-time trade justice and worker rights advocate Daniel Bonham died while hiking at Silver Falls State Park on March 2.  Through-and-through, Daniel epitomized the passion and dedication that’s needed to create a more just society. He lived out his beliefs in a quiet and steady, yet self-assured, way, and seemed to be constantly seeking out new ways of engaging with and expanding his community. Continue reading

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Oregon Can’t Afford a “NAFTA of the Pacific”

The Trans-Pacific Free Trade Agreement (FTA) is a massive new international trade pact for the Pacific Rim being pushed by the U.S. government at the behest of transnational corporations for completion in 2012.

Oregon cannot afford another trade deal that ships good-paying jobs overseas, reduces the tax base and puts a downward pressure on the wages and benefits in jobs we have left — all while handing new power to Wall Street to challenge financial, environmental and other public interest regulations.  Learn more about the Trans-Pacific FTA and take action to help prevent it from becoming a NAFTA of the Pacific.

UPDATE:  During ORFTC events on the Trans-Pacific FTA held in Redmond, Eugene, Ashland, Portland, Monmouth and Salem in February 2012, Oregonians from across the state signed letters urging their senior Senator to press the U.S. Trade Representative to publish its FTA proposals — and shortly thereafter, Senator Wyden contacted us pledging to do just that.

TAKE ACTION:  Please urge Senator Wyden to continue pressing for transparency in the Trans-Pacific FTA negotiations.

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Fair Trade Victory in Salem!

Corporations that benefit from NAFTA-style trade deals have long tried to frame the trade policy debate as one of being “for trade” or “against trade.”  The implication has been that there is no alternative to business-as-usual trade pacts other than just folding up shop and ending trade altogether.

You and I know that’s bunk, and now the Oregon State Senate is on record, too, speaking out for new rules governing international trade. Sponsored by State Senators Chip Shields and Brian Boquist, Senate Memorial 201 calls on Congress to enact and the President to sign comprehensive trade reform legislation called the Trade, Reform, Accountability, Development and Employment Act — or TRADE Act, for short.  SM 201 passed on February 10, 2012 with overwhelming bipartisan support.

The TRADE Act lays out a new framework for international trade and would put an end to existing and future NAFTA-style trade agreements that put corporate profits ahead of working people, family farmers, consumer safety and the environment.  A heartfelt “THANK YOU” for all your help building support for a new model for trade.

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Trade Policy and Family Farms in Oregon

Modern trade agreements severely limit nations’ and communities’ rights to make their own decisions regarding how they will maintain or expand their ability to produce healthy, sustainable food supplies for their people and protect the livelihoods of those involved in food production.

ORFTC spoke with farmers, local food advocates and others to gain a better understanding of how these issues are playing out locally.  We share our findings in the new report Going Global in a Localized Economy: Trade Policy and Food Systems in Oregon’s Southern Willamette Valley.

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