The Unfolding FTAA Battle|
William F. Jasper
The New American, May 3, 2004
Understanding the dynamics involved in previous congressional votes on NAFTA and other so-called trade pacts is key to stopping the dangerous erosion of our sovereignty.
In December 1994, President Bill Clinton hosted the Summit of the Americas in Miami. Together with the leaders of the nations of North and South America and the Caribbean, he committed to completing an agreement for a Western Hemispheric trade bloc by January 2005. At the Quebec Summit of the Americas in April 2001, our newly elected President George W. Bush pledged his support for the same plan. Like Clinton, President Bush signed on to a timetable that calls for completing an agreement for a 34-nation Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) by January 2005, and a follow-through commitment to obtain congressional ratification that would make the hemispheric union a reality by December 2005. Since that time, President Bush and his top officials have repeatedly stated that creation of the FTAA is one of the administration’s top priorities.Those 2005 deadlines are rapidly approaching, and the FTAA proponents are busily building support in Congress. Very belatedly, many Americans are awakening to the hidden dangers lurking in the FTAA plan and the enormous destructive forces that would be unleashed if the agreement is adopted. This article and the accompanying index of congressional votes are intended to provide key information that will help committed patriots defeat one of the most serious assaults ever on the American economy and our national sovereignty.
As we will show, the current FTAA effort is part of a step-by-step process initiated over a decade ago with the campaign for NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement. The Senate and House votes in the index provide a track record showing how individual members voted on these earlier steps toward the FTAA. As such, they provide reliable indicators regarding which direction a particular member is likely to be leaning on the FTAA. This record of past performance can help us influence the future. These votes provide powerful ammunition that we can use during this crucial election year to make Congress far more responsive to the electorate and more conscious of the consequences of violating their oaths to defend and preserve the Constitution.
For the past decade, FTAA promoters have carried out a huge stealth campaign to build support and momentum for their plan among corporate, political and media elites. During that same period, THE NEW AMERICAN has repeatedly exposed the real goals and game plan of the FTAA architects. If the American public allows Congress to vote in favor of U.S. membership in the deceptively misnamed FTAA, we will have allowed our elected representatives and senators to take a huge step down the road toward the final signing away of our freedom, our Constitution, our Bill of Rights, our borders and our national sovereignty. The FTAA schemers intend that step to be an irreversible one that will signal the end of our nationhood, our prosperity and our freedom. The upcoming battle in Congress is that serious.
FTAA: Fraudulent Trade Area of the Americas
The Free Trade Area of the Americas has nothing to do with “free trade,” as understood and defined by classical economists. Genuine free trade would not require establishing a huge, supranational, socialist bureaucracy to regulate not only trade, but every aspect of life in the Western Hemisphere. Yet that is what the proposed FTAA would eventually do. It is essential to realize that the FTAA is not a concise, concrete, clearly defined document. It is, in fact, an ongoing, open-ended process designed constantly to evolve and expand — and assiduously to take jurisdiction and control over more and more spheres of economic, political and social conduct. Although trade has been used as the bait to trap Americans in this new hemispheric regime, the FTAA architects’ own public pronouncements and documents reveal their intent to develop the FTAA into a full-fledged regional government with legislative, executive and judicial powers that would override the governments of the member nation states, including the United States of America.
FTAA conferences, ministerial meetings, working papers and reports make it very clear that the FTAA’s designers intend for the new organization to usurp authority over such issues as environment, labor, wages, health care, education, foreign aid, welfare, housing, taxation, investment, agriculture, narcotics control, immigration, border control, counter-terrorism, etc. In short, virtually every area that traditionally has been the purview of the nation-state and its political subdivisions would be internationalized. Thus, FTAA really stands for Fraudulent Trade Area of the Americas; the “free trade” label has been, and is being, used to sucker Americans into believing that it will magically boost exports by all parties involved and lead to greater prosperity for all. In reality, the FTAA is a blatant assault against our national sovereignty that would saddle Americans with an ever-expanding bureaucracy of unelected and unaccountable administrators who would exercise ever-increasing control over our lives. At the same time, it would greatly accelerate the exodus of U.S. industries and jobs overseas, while also greatly increasing the waves of immigration into the U.S. from Latin America.
Following the EU Model
The proposed FTAA represents a huge expansion of NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, which went into effect 10 years ago, in 1994. NAFTA was promoted as a trade pact that would stimulate booming prosperity by freeing and increasing trade between Mexico, Canada and the U.S. While some of the giant U.S. corporations and selected industries have profited handsomely from NAFTA, its overall effect was to speed up the hemorrhaging of U.S. jobs and industry to foreign countries.
The FTAA promoters refer to their new project as a “broadening and deepening” of NAFTA. The broadening aspect refers to the expansion of NAFTA from its original three members to 34 nations of the Western Hemisphere. The deepening aspect refers to the increased sphere of jurisdiction that the new regional entity would assume over areas besides trade. When NAFTA was launched, this magazine pointed out that beneath all the glowing rhetoric about trade there was another hidden agenda: to bring about hemispheric political and economic union, ultimately, with a full-blown regional government modeled after the European Union. And we pointed out that like the EU, which rapidly has been destroying the sovereignty of its members, NAFTA would work to erode U.S. sovereignty and reduce us, eventually, to vassalage under a regional behemoth. This was clear from a reading of the basic NAFTA documents, as well as from the occasional candid admissions of its prominent one-world backers.
Henry Kissinger, for instance, writing in support of NAFTA in a July 18, 1993 op-ed for the Los Angeles Times, said of the agreement : “It will represent the most creative step toward a new world order taken by any group of countries since the end of the Cold War, and the first step toward an even larger vision of a free-trade zone for the entire Western Hemisphere.” NAFTA “is not a conventional trade agreement,” Kissinger said, “but the architecture of a new international system.”
NAFTA supporter William Orme Jr., author of Continental Shift: Free Trade and the New North America, was even more explicit. In a 1993 pro-NAFTA article for the Washington Post, Orme pointed out that when NAFTA was first proposed, “critics in all three countries claimed that its hidden agenda was the development of a European-style common market.” And they were right, Orme conceded:
Didn’t Europe also start out with a limited free trade area? And, given the Brussels precedent, wouldn’t this mean ceding some measure of sovereignty to unelected bureaucrats? Even worse, would this lead to liberalization and collaborative policy making in many other sensitive areas, from monetary policy and immigration to labor and environmental law?
NAFTA’s defenders said no. They argued that the agreement is designed to dismantle trade barriers, not build a new regulatory bureaucracy. NAFTA, declared one congressional backer, “is a trade agreement, not an act of economic union.”
Yet the critics were essentially right. NAFTA lays the foundation for a continental common market, as many of its architects privately acknowledge. Part of this foundation, inevitably, is bureaucratic: The agreement creates a variety of continental institutions — ranging from trade dispute panels to labor and environmental commissions — that are, in aggregate, an embryonic NAFTA government.
Yes, we, the NAFTA critics, were right. NAFTA could never have won passage in Congress if more of our fellow Americans had understood what truly is at stake. If only a few tens of thousands more citizens had been informed and motivated to contact their senators and representatives, NAFTA very likely would have been sent down to a crashing defeat. A change of only 18 votes would have been sufficient to stop NAFTA in the House of Representatives. A change of only two votes in the House could have killed the very dangerous Trade Promotion Authority, which was approved 215-212 in 2002.
The margin of victory (or defeat) may turn out to be just that close in the upcoming battle over CAFTA, the Central American Free Trade Agreement, for which the White House could seek congressional approval before the end of the year. CAFTA, along with a host of bilateral trade agreements, is an important part of the piecemeal approach that the administration is using to build incremental support for the final FTAA push. CAFTA would broaden NAFTA to include all the countries of Central America, which automatically would strengthen the hands of Central American leaders who already have sold out their countries to the FTAA merger plot. It also would work to further solidify U.S. business interests in Latin America in favor of the FTAA final step. As such, passage of CAFTA would give additional momentum to the FTAA forces and enhance their psychological campaign aimed at convincing us that resistance is futile, that the FTAA is part of the unstoppable wave of “globalization.” But CAFTA is stoppable, as is the FTAA. And it is vitally important that CAFTA be soundly defeated or postponed this year as a stepping stone to our defeat of FTAA next year.
A Look at the Score
In our accompanying index, we have chosen six votes in the House of Representatives and five in the Senate that are critical indicators pointing toward how we can expect members of Congress to line up on the FTAA. What many observers will quickly notice is that on these so-called trade pacts the usual conservative-liberal, Republican-Democrat dichotomy does not apply. Conservative Republicans, who generally tend to favor smaller government and less government interference in the marketplace (in their rhetoric, if not always in their votes), have by and large supported not only NAFTA but virtually all of the trade agreements sponsored by the Clinton and Bush administrations. They have been sold a bill of goods that the so-called free trade agreements (FTAs) represent the epitome of free market operation and will lead to national and global prosperity.
In truth, the FTAs represent a whole new level of international regulation and governance, without any of the mechanisms of accountability present in our constitutional system. This is especially evident in the case of the World Trade Organization (WTO), a gargantuan bureaucracy with enormous powers. Nevertheless, Republican leaders have whipped party members into line by denouncing opposition to FTAs as “protectionism” and “isolationism.”
Liberal Democrats in Congress, on the other hand, have tended to oppose the FTAs, catering to union voters who rightly see the agreements as facilitating the continuing loss of union jobs to overseas competition. But even though union leaders have opposed NAFTA, WTO and FTAA, their opposition is not dependable. The top union officials have made it clear that they do not oppose the transfer of more governing power to international bodies. The major union leaders have argued that the FTAs give unfair advantage to foreign producers who don’t have to pay U.S. union-scale wages, provide health care, or operate under the same costly environmental regulations. So, they insist that the FTAs must be deepened to include international standards on labor, health, environmental, education and other matters. Once these conditions are met, they will sign on. And, as we’ve already noted, the deepening process is already underway. Much of the liberal Democrat opposition, then, is very tenuous and temporary.
Let’s now survey the votes:
NAFTA Implementation.In November 1993, both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate passed the legislation implementing the badly misnamed North American Free Trade Agreement. (See House vote #1 and Senate vote #1 in the accompanying index of congressional votes.) The agreement comprised 1,700 pages of legalese, which very few congressmen had even read and fewer still had actually studied. It also created more than 30 international commissions, committees, councils, agencies and tribunals to form the basis of a sprawling, multinational bureaucracy.
THE NEW AMERICAN repeatedly exposed this danger hidden in the labyrinthine text. We reported, for example, on January 10, 1994: “Two of these new committees, the Councils on Labor and Environmental Cooperation, would be empowered to fine nations up to $20 million per infraction for not enforcing the Councils’ interpretation of the nation’s domestic law. Passage of NAFTA would represent the biggest giveaway of U.S. sovereignty in more than 40 years.... In fact, the treaty is so full of loopholes that many of the promised free trade benefits would never be realized. But the multi-billion dollar cost of the treaty — which includes a tax increase on international travel, a new North American Development Bank (modeled after the World Bank), a new federal Center for the Study of Western Hemispheric Trade, and displaced-worker retraining programs — would be incurred immediately.” We repeatedly pointed out that these dangerous NAFTA features were ipso facto proof that trade was being used as a come-on to promote a power grab. And we have been proven correct; NAFTA’s institutions are already riding roughshod over U.S. laws and U.S. industries.
President Bill Clinton had no hope of passing this monstrosity, except with the connivance of Republican Party leaders. Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), who was then serving as minority whip, rounded up the necessary votes. Gingrich and other GOP leaders convinced Republican members that this scheme for regional regulation and EU-style socialism was really a plan for expanding the benefits of the free market across our borders. Some of the needed votes that couldn’t be won with false appeals to free market ideology were bought with promises of federal projects for home districts and coveted committee assignments.
Creating the WTO.One year after the adoption of NAFTA, the Clinton-Gingrich combine went into high gear again. This time the objective was passage of legislation to implement the mammoth Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). The primary objective of the agreement was the creation of a permanent World Trade Organization (WTO) and its attendant bureaucracy to supersede GATT. We reported in these pages: “The trade agreement would create the WTO’s own court (the Dispute Settlement Body), legislative branch (Ministerial Conference), bureaucracy (secretariat), and dozens of subsidiary bodies. The WTO would be the sole interpreter of the intentionally vague, 20,000-plus page agreement and would be empowered to authorize global sanctions to enforce its dictates.”
The WTO is the larger global regime under which NAFTA and FTAA are intended to function as subsidiary regions. Rep. Newt Gingrich knew full well that he was subverting the U.S. Constitution that he had taken an oath to uphold and protect when he led the WTO charge for President Clinton. These are Gingrich’s own words during the raging WTO debate:
I am just saying that we need to be honest about the fact that we are transferring from the United States at a practical level significant authority to a new organization. This is a transformational moment. I would feel better if the people who favor this would just be honest about the scale of change.
I agree … this is very close to Maastricht [the European Union treaty by which the EU member nations surrendered considerable sovereignty], and twenty years from now we will look back on this as a very important defining moment. This is not just another trade agreement.... [I]t is a very big transfer of power.
Now, yes, we could in theory take the power back.... But the fact is we are not likely to disrupt the entire world trading system [by pulling out]. And, therefore, we ought to be very careful, because we are not likely to take it back.
Despite his caveats and appeals for others to be honest about the scope of the power grab, Gingrich joined Democratic President Clinton and Republican Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole in one of the most sordid, corrupt spectacles of vote-buying and arm-twisting ever seen in the U.S. Congress. Incredibly, among the many tactics used by the Clinton-Gingrich-Dole team to sell the WTO as “free trade” was to promise tariff protection to various congressmen for interests in their districts: home appliances, sugar, wheat, peanuts, tomatoes, citrus fruits, airplanes, etc. All of this was carried out after the November 1994 elections during a high-pressured, lame-duck session. (See House vote #2 and Senate vote #2.) We may face similar circumstances with the CAFTA, if President Bush and Congress decide to hold off a vote until after the November elections.
In 2000, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) offered a resolution to withdraw U.S. membership in the WTO. As Rep. Paul explained, the WTO “is an unconstitutional approach to managing trade. We cannot transfer the power to manage trade from the Congress to anyone. The Constitution is explicit. ‘Congress shall have the power to regulate foreign commerce.’ We cannot transfer that authority.” Indeed, transferring that authority would be tantamount to the president transferring his authority as Commander in Chief to the secretary-general of the UN. Amazingly, Rep. Paul’s sensible measure to get U.S. out of the WTO was defeated by a huge bipartisan majority. (See House vote #3.)
Trade Promotion Authority.When President Clinton presented the Uruguay Round of GATT that created the WTO to Congress, he used the so-called fast-track authority Congress had earlier given to the president. Under fast track, Congress was prevented from offering any amendments to the GATT/WTO agreement and was forced instead to accept or reject the whole package. President George Bush (the elder) used the same fast-track authority to negotiate the original NAFTA pact. However, with opposition building to the trade agreement barrage, Clinton was unable to get fast-track authority renewed. In 2002, however, with post-9/11 patriotic support still giving him enormous political momentum, President George W. Bush succeeded in getting fast track (now called trade promotion authority) pushed through Congress. (See House vote #4 and Senate vote #3.) FTAA backers intend to use this new authorization to ram the FTAA through Congress before the end of 2005.
Singapore and Chile Free Trade Agreements.In 2003, the Bush administration launched a flurry of bilateral FTAs with dozens of countries. Congress has already passed two of those bilateral FTAs — the ones with Chile and Singapore. (See House votes #5-6 and Senate votes #4-5.) Many of these FTAs are with countries in the proposed FTAA region. The administration has been open about the fact that that this is part of a strategy to build support for the FTAA and to obtain the FTAA piecemeal. Chile, of course, is one of the prospective FTAA countries, and dropping tariffs on Chilean products will solidify Chile’s support for the larger hemispheric program. While Singapore would seem an unlikely candidate for FTAA, it may actually lead the way for an Asian component of the regional pact. Some of the leading architects of FTAA have advocated from the start that the FTAA should eventually include Asian members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Community (APEC). The U.S., Canada, Mexico and Chile already are APEC members they argue, so why not bring Japan, Singapore and other APEC members into FTAA?
Accountability Is the Key
Despite the fact that the coalition of congressional Democrats and Republicans supporting the internationalist trade agenda has been successful on NAFTA, WTO, Trade Promotion Authority and various FTAs, there is very good reason to believe that we can defeat the FTAA — if we are serious about doing so and will activate and mobilize thousands of fellow citizens in the cause. The pro-FTAA side has the advantage of enormous financial resources, superb organization, favorable media support, the White House bully pulpit and a huge head start. However, the tens of millions of ordinary folks who are being harmed by these fraudulent trade policies can overcome those advantages.
Recent polls showing increased voter alarm over immigration and out-sourcing have caused the Bush administration to back-pedal on these issues. A recent two-week speaking tour of five Western states by this writer provided some very good anecdotal evidence that Americans are fed up with trade policies that are destroying our jobs and our industrial and technological leadership.
At one speech a Republican congressman in the audience noted that there has been a huge sea change this year among his GOP colleagues. Job outsourcing and immigration have become such hot topics, he said, that it was highly unlikely that the administration’s illegal alien amnesty plan would be brought up for a vote before the election.
At another speech, to a Republican Party breakfast comprised of hard-core Bush supporters, I was pleasantly surprised to find overwhelming support for my “STOP the FTAA” message. These GOP loyalists flocked to the podium to express their concern and anger over the devastating losses of our steel production, our manufacturing base, our agriculture and our hi-tech industries. An aide to a Republican senator who has leaned toward supporting FTAA told the audience that my claim of a large and growing groundswell of opposition to the FTAA was exactly right. “Our phones have been ringing off the hook,” she said. “We’ve had an even bigger response on trade and job losses than on homosexual marriage!” The aide said her senator is now leaning against FTAA and she expressed her fear that if the party leadership doesn’t listen to the grass roots on this issue, they’ll drive the Republican Party to defeat in November.
The time is ripe for this message. Many of your friends and neighbors are becoming acutely concerned at the serious erosion of our industrial base and the loss of jobs.
They are looking for the answers that you can provide.
What You Can Do
1) Check the voting record of your U.S. senators and representative on the following three pages. (If you do not know who your senators or representative are, you can find out at http://capwiz.com/jbs/dbq/officials/.
2) Call, write, fax, or e-mail your U.S. representative and senators. Compliment those who have voted correctly; firmly (but courteously) admonish those who have voted against America’s interests. Let them know that you will hold them accountable at the ballot box and that you are actively working to inform other voters on these very important issues. Strongly urge them to speak out and vote against CAFTA and FTAA. Do not let them off the hook with a wishy-washy reply that merely thanks you for your opinion and promises to keep your view in mind. Keep after them until they are forced to take a public stand on the matter, one way or the other. Do not stop then, regardless of whether they announce for or against. Those who announce for CAFTA/FTAA should not be considered a lost cause, nor should we take false assurance from those who say they will vote against. Enormous pressures will be brought to bear from both sides and many votes will shift back and forth in response.
3) Become involved in the “STOP the FTAA” campaign. Go to the “STOP the FTAA” campaign website for information and an action plan, and encourage others to go to this site as well: www.stoptheftaa.org.