Saturday, November 08, 2008

A 'tipping point' for fair-trade policy?

In the North Carolina elections for the House of Representatives November 4, Democrat Larry Kissell, a civics teacher who had worked in textile factories for 27 years, defeated a five-term Republican incumbent, Robin Hayes, who had cast one of the two last-minute votes that passed the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) in 2001.

That other decisive pro-CAFTA vote had come from Phil English, a veteran Republic congressman from Erie, Pa. He too lost his seat this month to a Democrat, Kathy Dahlkemper.

For Todd Tucker, research director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch division, those two victories are part “of an unprecedented shift in the U.S. political landscape away from the disastrous trade and globalization policies of the past.” For the division’s director, Lori Wallach, the 2008 election was “a veritable tipping point for fair trade issues.”

In the House of Representatives, 33 new “fair traders” won, for a net gain of 26, meaning that in January 2009 the new House will have about 140-150 “hardcore free traders” from both parties, according to Global Trade Watch’s count. In the Senate, five new fair-trade supporters were victorious, notably North Carolina state Senator Kay Hagan, who ousted GOP Senator Elizabeth Dole. The outcome of several other Senate and House races may increase those numbers.

The latest details are reported in a Global Trade Watch report, “Fair Trade Gets an Upgrade.”

Those numbers, impressive as they are, aren’t the only indicators of whether U.S. trade policy will become worker-friendly. A major clue will come from President Obama’s choice for U.S. Trade Representative, the senior official with a great deal of leeway in interpreting and enforcing U.S. trade policy.

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1 comment:

RightDemocrat said...

Fair trade supporters have another opportunity to defeat a CAFTA backer in the December 2 Georgia U.S. Senate runoff. Democrat Jim Martin is making an issue of Republican Saxby Chambliss' support of CAFTA. See link to TV ad.