Saturday, October 06, 2007


WND Exclusive
Bush seeks NAFTA expansion to Peru
Advocating open trade across hemisphere 1 nation at a time

Posted: October 6, 2007
1:00 a.m. Eastern

By Jerome R. Corsi
© 2007

The Bush administration, having been rebuffed on plans to advance a Free Trade of the Americas Act that would open a free trade market to the tip of South America, now is working on the expansion one nation at a time, according to critics.

The Bush administration is pushing Congress to pass a new "free trade" NAFTA-like agreement with Peru, amid growing opposition among Republican voters.

Leading the opposition in the House is presidential candidate Duncan Hunter, R-Calif.

"While proponents of free trade will argue the importance of the Peru agreement, Congressman Hunter does not buy that this trade deal, like any other free trade agreement, is good for America," Joe Kasper, communications director for Hunter, told WND in an e-mail.

U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter

"Congressman Hunter does not subscribe to the concept of free trade, … especially when international trade agreements promoting this concept continue hurting America's workforce while unfairly favoring our trading partners," he said.

"It is because of these policies that our industrial base is deteriorating and quality jobs once available to Americans are now being shipped overseas," he stressed.

The Bush administration plan is to get the trade agreement with Peru through Congress first, followed by trade agreements the administration already has negotiated with Panama, Columbia and South Korea.

Of the four agreements, the Bush administration believes that the deal with Peru will raise the least opposition, paving the way for the other, more controversial, deals, officials said.

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Congressional Quarterly confirms this strategy, quoting U.S. Trade Representative Susan C. Schwab as telling reporters the "administration has had, right from the start, a four FTA [free-trade agreement] strategy," in which deals with the other three agreements would be pushed through Congress as soon as the Peru deal passes.

The Peru free trade agreement moved to center stage this week when the Senate Finance Committee voted to endorse it, making a debate on the floor of the Senate likely soon. The House Ways and Means Committee cleared the Peru trade deal by a Sept. 25 voice vote, setting the stage for debate on the measure on the House floor.

The Bush administration push to expand free trade agreements comes amidst growing Republican Party resistance to free trade.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday the results of a Wall Street Journal-NBC news poll showing "six in 10 Republicans in the poll agreed with a statement that free trade has been bad for the U.S. and said they would agree with a Republican candidate who favored tougher regulations to limit foreign imports."

The Peru free trade agreement was signed by U.S. Trade Representative Bob Portman and Peruvian Minister of Foreign Trade and Tourism Alfredo Ferrero Diez Canseco on April 12, 2006.

The Peru vote will be a test of Democratic leadership in the Congress.

Democrats are being pressured by labor unions and voters who are concerned that free trade agreements are costing U.S. workers millions of jobs.

At the same time, top Democratic presidential candidates, including Hillary Clinton, have accepted generous campaign contributions from top Wall Street hedge funds and multi-national corporations that have been pushing a globalization agenda.

WND has confirmed that the White House is lobbying Congress hard to gain passage of the Peru deal, but key Republican leaders in the House and Senate still are reluctant to state their final positions on the trade deal.

Under the remaining "fast track" authority, Congress has 90 legislative days to act on a clock that began when President Bush last week sent the Peru free trade agreement to the House and Senate.

Congress has not voted to renew President Bush's "fast track" authority to negotiate free trade agreements directly. Consequently, fast-track authority expired June 30 at midnight.

But according to Congressional Quarterly the agreements with Peru, Panama, Columbia and South Korea were signed before the June 30 fast-track deadline.

The Columbia deal faces stiff Congressional opposition over Columbian President Alvaro Uribe's alleged ties to the drug cartels.

Bloomberg reported Uribe "fired three generals tied to the drug cartels, agreed to extradite a narcotics boss and hired top Democratic lobbyists to try to persuade the U.S. Congress to sign on to a trade accord."

In September, U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez led members of Congress on a trip to Columbia, Peru and Panama to lobby for approval of the trade pacts.

The trade agreement with South Korea also faces growing bi-partisan opposition.

According to Congressional Quarterly, Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., has vowed to block the South Korea deal until South Korea agrees to accept U.S. beef imports.

Objections to Panama center on Pedro Miguel Gonzalez who legislators in Panama voted to be president of the country's National Assembly, despite an outstanding arrest warrant in the United States charging Gonzales with a role in the 1992 killing of a U.S. soldier in Panama.

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