Bush’s Panama Free Trade Agreement

The U.S. Trade Representative and corporate lobbyists are moving to pass the Panama Free Trade Agreement — a trade deal negotiated by the Bush administration that repeats many of the same problems as NAFTA and CAFTA. The Panama FTA represents business-as-usual on trade, rather than the change that was promised to voters.

It’s not too late to stop Congress from continuing the Bush administration’s mission of expanding NAFTA to Panama — but only if we can get our elected officials to take a stand! Please call your Members of Congress and urge them to publicly oppose the Panama Free Trade Agreement.

Rep. David Wu (D-1st): 202-225-0855
Rep. Greg Walden (R-2nd): 202-225-6730
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-3rd): 202-225-4811
Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-4th): 202-225-6416
Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-5th): 202-225-5711
Sen. Ron Wyden (D): 202-224-5244
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D): 202-224-3753

Live outside Oregon? Call the Congressional Switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask to be connected to your Member of Congress.

SEND A MESSAGE ONLINE: People from anywhere within the United States can also send a message to Congress and the President opposing the Panama FTA using our online form.

Want to do more? Draft and submit a Letter to the Editor to your local newspaper using our online form.

Good Reasons to Oppose the Panama FTA
Panama’s Tax Haven Status: Panama’s economy thrives on banking secrecy, and its “comparative advantage” rests on the ease with which U.S. companies can create subsidiaries there to evade U.S. taxes. A Government Accountability Office study identified Panama as one of eight countries — and the only current or prospective FTA partner — that was listed on all of the major tax-haven watchdog lists. Panama has long been a key target of the OECD and other tax transparency entities for its resistance to international norms in combating tax evasion and money laundering. Given the role that banking secrecy played in the global financial meltdown, a trade agreement with Panama should be conditioned on much greater regulation and transparency within its financial sector.
Weakened Food Safety: U.S. Food & Drug Administration data shows that Americans are three times more likely to be exposed to dangerous pesticide residues on imported foods than domestic foods. The Panama FTA does not require imported food to meet the same high production standards as those in the United States, and actually opens the door to safety regulations being challenged as “barriers to trade.”

Threats to U.S. Sovereignty: The investment chapters in the Panama FTA allow foreign corporations to challenge food safety regulations, responsible land use decisions, environmental protection initiatives and other public interest policies as “barriers to trade” through closed trade tribunals that circumvent the U.S. judicial system. Under NAFTA alone, more than 40 complaints, seeking $28 billion in damages, have already been filed against existing public policies. The Panama FTA’s procurement provisions further undermine U.S. “Buy American” and “Buy Local” purchasing preferences, and threaten procurement policies with environmental and social goals.

Inadequate Labor and Environmental Standards: The Panama FTA includes the modestly-improved labor and environmental standards of the Peru FTA, rather than the virtually non-existent standards of NAFTA and CAFTA. Nonethless, the experience of the Peru FTA demonstrates that these standards are still far from adequate to protect working people or the environment. The Peru FTA was implemented in early 2009 without Peru improving its labor law to meet International Labor Organization standards as supposedly required, and after Peru rolled back environmental protections that existed prior to the FTA’s signing. Stronger labor and environmental standards must be added to the Panama FTA’s core text in order to avoid these clear failures.

Access to Medicines: Bush’s Panama FTA includes NAFTA-style provisions that undermine Panama’s right to obtain affordable medicines for its impoverished citizens, as allowed under the WTO’s Doha Declaration.

Increased Poverty Abroad: Like NAFTA and CAFTA before it, the Panama FTA is expected to increase rural poverty by forcing small Panamanian farmers out of business in competition with subsidized food imports from U.S. transnationals. The FTA is expected to increase hunger, drug cultivation and undocumented migration.

The Panama FTA, and the other Bush hangover FTAs with Colombia and South Korea, do not advance the public interest. To transform international trade policy into a tool for improving quality of life for working people in the United States and abroad, President Obama and Congress should support the Trade Reform, Accountability, Development and Employment (TRADE) Act put forward last session by more than 85 members of the House and Senate. The TRADE Act, while will be re–introduced again this year by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine), can serve as a blueprint for renegotiating the Panama FTA and offer a more-balanced way to expand trade.

Download a PDF of our half-page factsheet: https://www.citizenstrade.org/ctc/oregon/files/2011/12/PanamaHalfsheet.pdf

Download a PDF factsheet about Panama’s role as a tax haven and its connection to AIG and bailed out financial institutions: https://www.citizenstrade.org/ctc/oregon/files/2011/12/PanamaTaxHaven.pdf

For more info, visit: