Why the NAFTA-style Free Trade Agreement Will Fail to Benefit Colombia

October 21, 2011  |   Economics & Trade

Why the NAFTA-style Free Trade Agreement Will Fail to Benefit Colombia

Despite evidence of limited economic welfare benefits and significant social costs, Latin American countries have been signing and ratifying trade treaties with the United States since the early 1990s.  This week, the long-stalled treaties with Colombia and Panama were ratified by the U.S. congress and signed by the President.  Like other trade treaties, these were based on the same template that has been the basis for U.S. trade policy since NAFTA. In the case of the Colombia Free Trade Agreement (Colombia FTA), promises from the government of President Juan Manuel Santos to better protect trade unionists pressured enough reluctant Democrats to vote in favor of the agreement.  Over 4,000 trade unionists have been murdered in Colombia in the past 20 years, mostly by right-wing paramilitaries with links to the government, making Colombia the most dangerous country in the world to support collective bargaining rights. Colombian labor union leaders have rejected government claims that human rights and trade unionist protection has improved, denigrating symbolic gestures aimed at securing U.S. ratification of the  agreement, which they rightly claim will help multinational companies over Colombian workers. In addition to doubts that the Colombian government will live up to its promises vis-à-vis the trade unionists, the gains from trade that Colombia can expect once the agreement is in force are ambiguous at best.  When the gains to some sectors (e.g. cut flowers, leather goods, seafood, textiles, certain services) are measured against the losses to other sectors (e.g. rice, corn, poultry, communications technology),  along with fiscal

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America’s System Failure: Only a Wave of Democratic Participation Can Save This Country

August 8, 2010  |   Paul Crist Politics and Policy

 I didn't write this... but posted it because it is well worth reading! America's System Failure: Only a Wave of Democratic Participation Can Save This Country As welcome as it was, the removal of George W. Bush was not enough to cure what ails us. It goes to the root of our political system. by Christopher Hayes  February 3, 2010 There is a widespread consensus that the decade we've just brought to a close was singularly disastrous for the country: the list of scandals, crises and crimes is so long that events that in another context would stand out as genuine lowlights -- Enron and Arthur Andersen's collapse, the 2003 Northeast blackout, the unsolved(!) anthrax attacks -- are mere afterthoughts. We still don't have a definitive name for this era, though Paul Krugman's 2003 book The Great Unraveling captures well the sense of slow, inexorable dissolution; and the final crisis of the era, what we call the Great Recession, similarly expresses the sense that even our disasters aren't quite epic enough to be cataclysmic. But as a character in Tracy Letts's 2007 Pulitzer Prize-winning play, August: Osage County, says, "Dissipation is actually much worse than cataclysm." American progressives were the first to identify that something was deeply wrong with the direction the country was heading in and the first to provide a working hypothesis for the cause: George W. Bush. During the initial wave of antiwar mobilization, in 2002, much of the ire focused on Bush himself. But as the

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Corporate Consolidation: Some Facts and Figures

April 2, 2010  |   Paul Crist

 Time to enforce, and strengthen, antitrust laws! Corporate Consolidation:  Some Facts and Figures By Spencer Windes on Feb 09, 2010 There has been a frightening trend towards corporate consolidation in the last few decades. Here are some troubling facts. Agriculture: From thousands of seed companies and public breeding institutions three decades ago, 10 companies now control more than two-thirds of global proprietary seed sales. The proprietary seed market (that is, brand-name seed subject to exclusive monopoly – i.e., intellectual property), now accounts for 82% of the commercial seed market worldwide. From dozens of pesticide companies three decades ago, 10 now control almost 90% of agrochemical sales worldwide. Biotech: From almost 1,000 biotech start-ups 15 years ago, 10 companies now account for three-quarters of industry revenues. Pharma: The top 10 pharmaceutical companies control 55% of the global drug market. In 2009 Merck and Schering-Plough merged to create Merck-Schering-Plough (a $41 billion cash and stock deal), just weeks after Pfizer bought Wyeth for $62 billion, maintaining its position as the #1 drug company in the world. The remaining big players (Roche, Johnson & Johnson, Sanofi Aventis, Glaxo) will most likely be forced to buy up smaller firms or seek mergers if they want to compete. Food: In raw foodstuffs, mergers among the nation’s largest grain firms — including Cargill’s acquisition of Continental Grain, and ConAgra’s purchase of Peavey and Standard Milling — contributed to giving four firms control over more than 60 percent of the nation’s grain business. In meatpacking, ConAgra’s acquisitions

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The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism

January 20, 2010  |   Politics and Policy

The following is excerpted from The limits of Power by Andrew Bacevich.  It is long, but well worth reading every word. The American Empire Project      The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism By Andrew Bacevich Published by Metropolitan Books Excerpt Chapter One The Crisis of Profligacy Today, no less than in 1776, a passion for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness remains at the center of America’s civic theology. The Jeffersonian trinity summarizes our common inheritance, defines our aspirations, and provides the touchstone for our influence abroad.  Yet if Americans still cherish the sentiments contained in Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, they have, over time, radically revised their understanding of those "inalienable rights." Today, individual Americans use their freedom to do many worthy things. Some read, write, paint, sculpt, compose, and play music. Others build, restore, and preserve. Still others attend plays, concerts, and sporting events, visit their local multiplexes, IM each other incessantly, and join "communities" of the like- minded in an ever- growing array of virtual worlds. They also pursue innumerable hobbies, worship, tithe, and, in commendably large numbers, attend to the needs of the less fortunate. Yet none of these in themselves define what it means to be an American in the twenty-first century.  If one were to choose a single word to characterize that identity, it would have to be more. For the majority of contemporary Americans, the essence of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness centers on a relentless personal quest

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