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Friday, October 24, 2008

"Free Trade with a Human Face"

Because I know how much you like talking about immigration and free trade:

Free trade with a human face, by Jorge G. Castañeda, Project Syndicate: ...For many Latin American nations, not just Mexico, immigration is the single most important issue in their relations with the US. The Caribbean islands all have a similarly high proportion of their citizens residing in the US and depend as much as Mexico on remittances. The same is true for much of Central America. And no part of South America is exempt from this pattern.

So almost all of Latin America is deeply affected by the current immigration climate in the US, and would benefit greatly from the type of comprehensive immigration reform that both John McCain and Barack Obama have supported. The Bush administration’s regrettable decision to build fences along the US-Mexico border, raid workplaces and housing sites, detain and deport foreigners without papers, is viewed in Latin America as being hypocritical and offensive. The issue is all the more painful and disappointing since most Latin American foreign ministries know full well that these attitudes are pure politics, nothing more. ...

If immigration is to become a less heated issue, the US must address the needs of Latin America’s economies. Here, one of the key challenges facing the next US administration lies in the existing and pending free-trade agreements between the US and Latin America. ...

If recession drags on and Americans continue to blame trade agreements – erroneously – for growing unemployment, falling wages, and yawning inequality, opposition to these deals will grow. Instead of waiting for the pressure to mount, the next president would do well to preempt it with an ambitious agenda on free-trade reform that would benefit everyone. ...

First, clear and explicit human rights and democracy clauses should be included, along the lines of similar clauses in the Mexican and Chilean Economic Association treaties with the EU. Second, more specific provisions on labor, the environment, gender equality, and indigenous rights are needed, as well as anti-trust, regulatory, and judicial reform provisions, for reasons both of principle and political expediency.

Although there have been enormous improvements in most of these areas, there remains a huge agenda, particularly with regard to breaking up or regulating monopolies – public, private, commercial, trade union-based – that plague nearly every country in the region.

These revised agreements should include bold, enlightened provisions for infrastructure and “social-cohesion” funds, since these can make the difference between muddling through and true success. Free-trade advocates should not view Obama’s demand that these deals be revisited as a mistake, but rather as an opportunity to improve and deepen them; McCain’s supporters should not see the incorporation of all of the aforementioned inclusions as “European nonsense,” but rather as a way to narrow the gap between the agreements’ promise and their actual results.

Improving Mexican and Central American infrastructure, education, and rule of law, or improving Colombian and Peruvian drug-enforcement efforts and respect for labor laws and human rights, are all in America’s interest, and-free trade agreements can help rather than harm such efforts.

If the US and Latin America can face up to the challenges of trade and immigration together, the next US president may leave a weightier mark on the hemispheric relationship than any American leader in three generations.

    Posted by on Friday, October 24, 2008 at 01:26 PM in Development, Economics, International Trade | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (45)

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