Support Voiced for US-Peru Trade Deal
WASHINGTON (AP) � Congress moved a step closer Tuesday to
making Peru the first country to join in a free trade
agreement with the U.S. since Democrats took over Congress at
the beginning of the year.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., at a
hearing of his committee, hailed the U.S.-Peru Trade Promotion
Agreement as the first to include "meaningful, and fully
enforceable, labor and environmental standards."
Farming and manufacturing representatives also praised the
agreement, and the AFL-CIO's chief international economist,
while not endorsing the deal, said it was an improvement over
past trade agreements.
The United States currently buys about $5.9 billion worth
of Peruvian products a year, and sells about $2.9 billion
worth in Peru. When the agreement is implemented, about 80
percent of U.S. consumer and industrial products and
two-thirds of farm exports would immediately enter Peru
A majority of Democrats and their key labor and
environmental group allies have long been wary of free trade
deals, saying they lead to the flight of U.S. jobs abroad,
exploitation of foreign workers and depravation of foreign
But the equation changed last May when House Democrats, led
by Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel, D-N.Y.,
negotiated a deal with the administration guaranteeing that
labor rights and the environment would be core elements in
future trade accords.
Baucus said that as a result, Peruvian workers would be
assured the right to organize and bargain collectively and
Peruvian children would stay in school rather than work in
Thea Mei Lee, the AFL-CIO economist, said that while the
agreement does not address all its worker rights' concerns, it
was "an enormous improvement" over past Bush administration
agreements with Chile, Singapore, Morocco and others.
She said that AFL-CIO unions were on both sides on the Peru
agreement, and it was putting its priorities into opposing two
other pending free trade agreements, with Colombia and South
Senate Democratic leaders have indicated that the Peru
agreement could reach the Senate floor by mid to late October.
Another agreement with Panama could be dealt with this year as
well, while the Colombia and South Korea deals are more
problematic � Colombia because of human rights issues and
South Korea because of its restrictions on U.S. auto and other
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, top Republican on the
Finance Committee, cited estimates that the Peru agreement
would result in a 25 percent boost in U.S. exports and 8
percent growth in Peruvian exports.
David Winkles, member of the American Farm Bureau
Federation trade advisory committee, told the panel that U.S.
agriculture exports to Peru, currently around $223 million a
year, could jump by more than $700 million.
But Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade
Watch, said in an interview that it would also "displace
millions of peasant farmers in Peru." She said many labor and
environmental groups with ties to Democrats are "basically
infuriated that Democrats are going to consider passing more
Bush NAFTA deals," referring to the North American Free Trade
Agreement. "They are putting a new roof on a condemned
Several at the hearing, including Lee and former Clinton
administration trade chief Mickey Kantor, stressed that
Americans will only support free trade if there is clear
evidence that the administration is enforcing promised labor
and environmental standards.
"What we have right now are the right words on paper," said
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. "That's not enough."