they want the “jetsetters of corporate America to know that if they sell their companies, their workers and their country down the river they will get called on the carpet.” Yet, according to the Alliance, the sweeping new protections for foreign investment actually encouraged U.S. corporations to sell the workers down the river. “NAFTA will facilitate the equalization of labor, environmental and other social standards among member nations which means greater downward pressure on wages and environmental and social standards.” As the Alliance points out, NAFTA contrasts poorly with the European Community, with its financial aid and respect for relatively high standards. NAFTA will accelerate the decline of the U.S. and Canadian wages and benefits standards. Clinton may soon face a firestorm of protest about NAFTA from many within his own party, including the many freshman members of Congress who ran against NAFTA. One of those upstart frosh is Sherrod Brown, former Secretary of State from Ohio. “I think that [NAFTA’s] a disaster for my region as well as the whole country,” Brown said in a recent interview, likening the trade agreement to “19th-century imperialism.” Opposition to the Bush GATT agreements by U.S. organizations was timed to coincide with the Little Rock Economic summit. An aggressive, well-financed multimedia campaign was launched by a range of environmental and trade groups to put the heat on Clinton, and ultimately, Congress. In television commercials aired in Arkansas on CNN and C-SPAN, to target the thousands news reporters assembled there, Ralph Nader implored viewers, “Don’t let them trade your rights away. Laws that protect American jobs … insure safe food … protect the environment and endangered species such as dolphins and whales … these laws will be subject to veto by bureaucrats unaccountable to the American people.” Simultaneously, newspaper ads sponsored by groups like Sierra Club, Greenpeace, The National Toxics Campaign, Public Citizen, The Citizen’s Trade Campaign and a host of consumer-oriented groups working on trade issues ran in the New York Times, Washington Post and the Arkansas DemocratGazette with the headline: “Sabotage of America’s Health, Food Safety and Environmental Laws.” And while consensus and good cheer prevailed throughout the economic summit, the rumblings from the grassroots suggest that when the time comes for a trade summit or whatever permutation is created to address the issue, things may not be nearly so harmonious. In response to Bush’s signing of NAFTA, a large coalition of citizens’ groups and unions held press conferences and placed a new round of ads denouncing NAFTA in major newspapers, including USA Today. They claim NAFTA will: Create environmental havoc at our borders as corporations race to take advantage of lax environmental enforcement in Mexico; Sacrifice fundamental standards of work place safety, food safety, and even basic democratic and human rights as competition is based upon the lowest available standard; Cause job loss as jobs move to lower wage locations; and Destroy family farms by displacing many farms and farm workers. Many of the major U.S. unions signed onto the advertising campaign, including the Workers, Steel Workers, Farm Workers, Construction Workers, Electrical Workers and a number of others. With public interest groups revving up for a tough battle with grassroots action and ad campaigns, anti-GATT and NAFTA critics should be hard to silence, much less ignore. The antiGATT ads in major newspapers offer vivid Orwellian visions of a “sneak attack on Democracy,” “increasing poisons and toxics,” and “faceless trade bureaucrats.” The copy warns readers to ignore it at their own risks: “If talk about ‘free trade’ makes you sleepy, you’d better wake up fast! While we’ve been dozing, awaiting a new President, Mr. Bush has been pushing new international trade rules that give a secretive foreign bureaucracy vast new powers to threaten American laws that protect your food, your health, your wilderness and wildlife, your job, and democracy itself. The beneficiaries? Huge multinational corporations.” Herb Gunther, head of the Public Media Center, the ad agency which designed the “Secret Side of ‘Free’ Trade” campaign calls GATT “the most important document since the Magna Carta.” With GATT and its ghastly lack of democracy, Gunther says, comes the unabashed “corporatization of the world where national borders will mean nothing.” What next? The Mexican government, not prone to democracy to begin with, has embarked full blast on an intensive lobbying campaign to get NAFTA signed. Mexico, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times, spent $100 million to push fast track, the agreement Congress made to vote the two trade agreements up or down without amendments. Insiders are estimating that Mexico will spend at least that much to get NAFTA approved. Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari met with Clinton January 8 in Austin to discuss the pact. Meanwhile, Bush’s negotiators are rushing headlong to conclude the Uruguay round, as Robert Lighthizer notes in the New York Times, despite division on many things, including protecting intellectual property and fair trade in telecommunications services: Clinton waits in the wings, no doubt unhappy with the arbitrary deadline and unnecessary compromise. So, the lines are drawn for what may prove to be Bill Clinton’s first political stand-off as president. A big chunk of his constituency is up in arms about NAFTA and GATT. How he deals with them, and corporate pressure, will say a lot about how he will conduct his presidency. Subscriptions to and back issues of The Texas Observer are available. Fill in the gaps in your collection or even out that leg table short on your for only $3 for each back issue you need. We still have plenty of copies of the following issues: Henry Ross Perot: Hit or Double issue on David Duke \(Jan. 17 & 31, Molly Ivins guest-editor and others. To inquire, call 512/477-0746 or write: Texas Observer Back Issues, 307 W. 7th St., Austin, Texas 78701 . TO SUBSCRIBE: Name Address City State Zip El $32 enclosed for a one-year subscription. Bill me for $32. $3 for each back issue. Please indicate dates: THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11
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