Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Vietnam Trade Redux

Republicans in Congress are scrambling to extend unfair trade arrangements before ceding power to Democrats at the end of the year.

Congress rejected the Bush administration deal to "normalize" trade with Vietnam one week after election day. But that isn't stopping Ways and Means Chair Bill Thomas from trying to get a second bite at the apple.

The Vietnam deal would not help working families in the United States or Vietnam. As AFL-CIO Legislation Director William Samuel said in a letter to House members:

[O]ur trade relations with Vietnam should remain governed by existing agreements until such time that Vietnam takes meaningful steps to bring practice and law regarding workers' rights into compliance with international standards.

The Bush administration and their congressional cronies also have eyes on winning passage of a new bilateral deal with Peru that is notable for what the Sierra Club calls "token, unenforceable provisions on labor and the environment."

The 2006 elections sent a signal that voters in key states like Ohio and Pennsylvania (as well as New York) will no longer tolerate a trade policy that favors profits for multinationals over jobs for Americans. The Miami Herald's headline ("Democrats won big by opposing free-trade agreements") only slightly overstates the case.

Democrats and Republicans who have voted for one-sided free trade deals in the past should read the tea leaves and resist Rep. Thomas and the lobbying of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The voters have spoken.

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