[mgj-discuss] US-SACU free trade agreement FAILS!!
phipco at riseup.net
Wed Apr 26 11:25:24 PDT 2006
You may have missed it (I know I did!) in all the hub bub surrounding
our daily lives, but on April 18th the US-Southern African Customs
Union (SACU) Free Trade Agreement Failed. Yea!!! Below are some links
to articles on the FTA and pasted below is a press release from SGAC,
AFSC and others. Again, Yea!!
April 18, 2006
Departing from USTR, Portman Leaves Dead US-Southern Africa Negotiations
Activists, Unions, and Churches Applaud Rejection of "One Size Fits All"
Model; Say Rejected Deal Could Have Undermined Fight Against AIDS & Poverty
Pretoria, South Africa/Washington, DC-Today, as US Trade Rep. Robert
Portman stepped down to run the Office of Management and Budget, civil
society organizations in the US and South Africa are applauding the
rejection of the USTR's efforts to revive the U.S.-Southern Africa
Customs Union Free Trade Agreement (U.S.-SACU FTA) negotiations.
Citing elements of the potential deal that could have limited access to
affordable generic AIDS drugs and other life-extending medicines and
impeded development in the region, activists, unions, and churches today
expressed satisfaction that a "comprehensive" FTA is looking
increasingly unlikely. SACU countries sent a strong message, say
activists, that they will not be held hostage to the U.S. "fast track"
timelines and will not sacrifice their ability to address poverty.
Instead, negotiators in Pretoria, where Mr. Portman made his departure
announcement, are talking of pursing a watered down "joint work
program"-a shift civil society groups hope signals an end to the push
for inappropriate, pro-corporate trade rules in the region.
The negotiations for what would be the first U.S. bilateral trade deal
in Sub-Saharan Africa have been "on again, off again" for the last three
years. This is largely because the U.S. Trade Representative's Office
refuses to commit to structuring the FTA in a way that takes the
grinding poverty, dependence on agriculture for livelihoods, and lack of
access to essential services and medicines in the region into account.
Today, it was reaffirmed that the SACU countries have rejected a
"comprehensive" FTA that would have included all economic sectors, and
worked from the same template USTR has used for trade agreements in
Latin America, Southeast Asia, North Africa and the Middle East.
Instead, discussions appear to heading down a path of a "joint work
program" that could look much like the US-Swiss Cooperation Forum that
was developed when free trade talks collapsed between the countries of
"Scholars have studied other U.S. free trade agreements and have found
that there is a 'one-size-fits-all' or as the negotiations would say an
FTA framework," said Carol Thompson, Research Chair of the Association
of Concerned African Scholars from Northern Arizona University. "By
refusing to take issues like patents on life-saving medicines, provision
of essential services, and food crops of special importance off the
'trade liberalization' table, the U.S. is putting Southern African
nations in the position of choosing between trade and the very lives of
their people," she said.
Among the top complaints of civil society and some legislators is that
the negotiations are being held under an anti-democratic veil of
secrecy. While it is well known from the statements of trade negotiators
that the U.S. is pursuing an equivalently problematic approach
throughout the world, keeping proposals secret keeps the populations and
many elected official in the both the U.S. and Southern Africa in the
dark about essential issues.
Coalitions in both the U.S. and South Africa today applauded the halt to
the talks. These coalitions encompass a collection of policy groups,
trade unions, faith-based networks, student groups, academics, people
living with HIV/AIDS, women's groups, and environmental organizations.
"Given the unique developmental profile of SACU - including a least
developed country, Lesotho - we confront a plethora of socio-economic
challenges, aggravated by the unfair and scandalous trade practices of
our development partners in the North", says Brendan Vickers, Senior
Researcher at the Institute for global Dialogue in South Africa. "It is
critical that our government maintains their right to policy space and
the right to protect programs like the Black Economic Empowerment
initiative used to undo historical injustices of the colonial and
Apartheid era," concluded Vickers.
Access to medicines and the effects of intellectual property rights on
people living with HIV/AIDS is a hot button issue for the region. The
SACU countries are home to the highest HIV prevalence rates in the
world, with countries like Lesotho reporting well over a third of adults
infected, but where only about 14% of those in need of HIV/AIDS
medication have access.
"As far as South Africa is concerned, it is under a constitutional
obligation not to trade away the health of its population," says
Jonathon Burger of the AIDS Law Project based in South Africa. "We are
committed to take whatever legal means at our disposal to block any
agreement that undermines our right to access to medicines and cannot
count out a constitutional challenge of the agreement as a whole," says
According to experts, the US-promoted rules would have violated a WTO
agreement on public health reached at the 2001 Doha WTO Ministerial,
permitting countries to prioritize access to medicines while
implementing their intellectual property regimes. In the case of SACU,
the rules would also violate U.S. Executive Order 13155, which states:
"[the U.S.] shall not seek revision or revocation of any intellectual
property law or policy of a...sub-Saharan African country...that
regulates HIV/AIDS pharmaceuticals or medical technologies if the law or
policy of the country...promotes access to HIV/AIDS pharmaceuticals or
medical technologies for affected populations in that country."
"As the largest trade union federation in South Africa with two million
members we are concerned about a Free Trade Agreement modeled after
other U.S. agreements and its potential negative impact on levels of
employment, poverty and government's ability to meet basic needs," said
Tanya Van Meelis of the Congress of South Africa Trade Unions (COSATU).
"In a country that faces 26 percent official unemployment and 40 percent
when using the broader definition that includes those too discouraged to
seek work," continued Van Meelis, "if an FTA cannot contribute to these
goals, we would not support it."
"As a Christian I follow the messages of Jesus - a man who spent his
time with the rural poor, who challenged systems of power and disparity
between the rich and powerful and the resource poor and powerlessness"
said Kathy McNeeley, Policy Analyst from Church World Service, a
ministry of 35 Protestant, Orthodox, and Anglican denominations in the
U.S. "Many Christians in the U.S. participated in fighting against
Apartheid and they know that these kinds of struggles are for the long
hall," said McNeeley.
# # #
Jessica Walker Beaumont
+1 (917) 609-5788
 The Southern Africa Customs Union (SACU) comprises South Africa,
Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland and Lesotho.
----- End forwarded message -----
"If I were a monkey, I would be the baddest monkey in the Jungle!"
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