Human rights abroad? What about at home?

I’m glad our “policy makers” are worried about the “rule of law” in Columbia- but what about here on our continent? Like right here at home. How are we protecting workers rights, homes, health while CEO’s and Wall Street types are taking home millions and billions per year- while we are watching the dollar melt down, people lose their jobs, food prices skyrocket, paying for a war where Iraq will have a huge budget surplus this year (The GAO says high oil prices are going to give Iraq a $79 billion budget surplus by the end of this year. same marketplace show)- while we are going broke?

This piece from American Public Radio’s Marketplace makes me wonder if anyone is home in Washington?

Susan Aaronson: U.S. policymakers have used trade agreements for over a century to achieve two very different goals: to expand trade and advance human rights abroad. The Bush Administration claims that a new free trade agreement with Colombia will help that troubled country improve the rule of law, but many human rights activists disagree. As a result, the agreement is unlikely to pass Congress this year.

Many labor and human rights activists argue that Congress should postpone consideration of the pact until Colombia’s human rights performance improves. They don’t want to reward countries that don’t consistently respect the rule of law. These critics have a point: Colombia’s human rights performance is lacking. Labor leaders are often murdered, workers’ rights are inadequately protected and in some regions terrorists act with impunity. The rule of law might be improving, but it’s still inadequate.

Marketplace: Free trade improves human rights.

You’ve often heard the expression “charity begins at home” – well so do basic human rights and justice.

It’s time to start locking up some CEOs for life sentences, and suing politicians for false advertising.

We’re not better off than we were 8 years ago- and that’s not “The American Way.”

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2 Responses

  1. susan aaronson August 10, 2008 / 8:11 pm
    David: I appreciate your raising this question. I agree with you that trade agreements can and have undermined human rights at home, including workers rights and the right to affordable medicines. I am not a policymaker, but I am a scholar of this issue and its not black and white. I do believe that we should use trade agreements to help advance the rule of law in countries where the rule of law is fragile, but not at the expense of workers here. But the Colombia trade agreement is likely to expand jobs here…. here’s why. The uUS currently gives preferential benefits to Colombia..its one sided… because Colombia was until recently a developing country. US exporters doesn’t have the same access to Colombia…so its likely to increase exports and jobs for Americans. But you may ask, what about workers rights in the US. As I said in the commentary, US workers can challenge the agreement (this is not in earlier agreements,) and while I am no fan of the Bush Administration, I do know that the US does more to promote labor rights with trade than any other nation on the planet. You might want to check out my book, Trade Imbalance: The Struggle to Weigh Human Rights Concerns in Trade Policymaking, which discusses what policymakers do and can do to advance human rights with trade agreements and policy.
  2. David Esrati August 10, 2008 / 8:45 pm

    Susan-
    I’m not so much worried about undermining- I’m talking about our denial of rights due to our unregulated punch drunk “financial system” that is now rewarding people for the raping of retirement and pension funds, the destruction of American manufacturing- and the focus on quarterly profit reports instead of long term sustainable business.
    I don’t really give a rat’s behind about workers in Columbia while GM can pay the CEO $17 million to drive the company into bankruptcy and destabilize our local Dayton economy.

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