City Council Effort to Save Local Authority from Corporate Rule

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By unanimous consent, the Berkeley City Council adopted the "Resolution to Preserve Local Sovereignty and Oppose CAFTA" Tuesday night because the Central American Free Trade Agreement would usurp local authority in the interests of corporate profit. Negotiated by the office of President Bush's appointed U.S. Trade Representative without meaningful input from those likely to be adversely affected, CAFTA "undermines more than two centuries of American constitutional values," per the California State Senate Select Committee on International Trade Policy.

The Berkeley City Council adopted the "Resolution to Preserve Local Sovereignty and Oppose CAFTA" by unanimous consent Tuesday night. Negotiated by the office of Pres. Bush's appointed Trade Representative without meaningful input from those likely to be adversely affected, the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) "undermines more than two centuries of American constitutional values," per the California State Senate Select Committee on International Trade Policy.

The Resolution came via Berkeley's Peace & Justice Commission. Ann Fagan Ginger, director of Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute and the Commission's first chair, says "This Resolution is a very important step for the people of Berkeley to participate directly in saving jobs and the environment from international corporate control."

Berkeley's Resolution to Preserve Local Sovereignty and Oppose CAFTA urges the U.S. Congress to defeat CAFTA because it negates local and state purchasing preferences if based on factors such as recycled content, vendors with a competent track record, a living wage, or avoidance of goods made with child labor or in sweatshops. Two thirds of Americans oppose trade policies that usurp environmental protections (Gallup poll, July.) Corporations use trade agreements to sue governments for lost profits resulting from laws that protect the environment or public health.    

A Canadian corporation has sued California for nearly $1 billion, using the North American Free Trade Agreement's Chapter 11, for banning the carcinogenic gas additive, MTBE. Congress did not discuss NAFTA's Chapter 11 before approving it.

CAFTA would expand NAFTA and promote the Free Trade Area of the Americas, dubbed "NAFTA on steroids." Boston, Philadelphia and Austin have passed resolutions opposing the hemisphere-wide FTAA. Numerous labor, fair trade, environmental, women's, faith-based, human rights and reclaim democracy organizations have mobilized in the U.S. and in Central America.

Jesse Swanhuyser, director of the California Coalition for Fair Trade and Human Rights, is a Berkeley resident who waitied patiently at the packed meeting to speak during Public Comment. He says, "The new generation of trade agreements sets policy far outside the traditional scope of 'trade,' and increasingly restricts the democratic process at the local and state level. Berkeley has long led struggles like these."

Congresswoman Hilda Solis, the only Congressperson of Central American descent, released a statement when CAFTA was signed saying it, "will mean more job loss and wage decline for American workers...a gift to corporate interests....Our trade policies should lift people out of poverty, not keep them in it....CAFTA is bad for American workers and bad for Central America."

The Resolution is posted on the web at http://www.ReclaimDemocracy.org/CAFTA

The RESOLUTION to PRESERVE LOCAL SOVEREIGNTY & OPPOSE CAFTA:

WHEREAS, Berkeley Municipal Code Section 3.68 establishing the Peace and Justice Commission, states that the Commission shall "(A) Advise the Berkeley City Council on all matters relating to the City of Berkeley's role in issues of peace and social justice, including, but not limited to support for human rights and self-determination throughout the world;...[and] (C) Help develop proposals for the City Council in furtherance of the goals of peace and justice...;" and

WHEREAS, Berkeley, by its Human Rights Ordinance No. 5985 and Precautionary Principle Resolution No. 62,259, promotes “higher standards of living, full employment, and... a safe and healthy environment” for every Berkeleyan and “seeks to prevent harm;” and

WHEREAS, the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) requires basing purchasing decisions on price, thereby negating state and local preferences regarding factors such as recycled content, small businesses, minority and women-owned businesses, vendors with a competent track record, a living wage, and avoidance of goods made with forced child labor; and

WHEREAS, CAFTA fails to preserve the traditional powers of state and local governments by failing to assure transparency in negotiating trade agreements; by failing to accord state and local officials timely access to negotiating documents to assess potential impacts on their authority and on their constituents; by failing to inform them of suspected adverse impacts; and by failing to invite them to participate in the negotiation, approval, and adjudication processes; and

WHEREAS, CAFTA expands corporate power and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) whose rules have been used 27 times to challenge public health, workplace safety and environmental laws, for example enabling Methanex Corporation to demand $970 million for potential future lost profits stemming from California's ban of MTBE*, a carcinogenic gasoline additive that is polluting the state’s groundwater; and NAFTA has cost the United States over 750,000 jobs**; and

WHEREAS, CAFTA will increase foreign investor rights and shift power away from state and local government, challenging zoning and protection of ground water and other natural resources, and will discourage local businesses but encourage commercial flight to low-wage areas, without allowing meaningful input by those adversely affected; and

WHEREAS, democracy requires participation, representation, and debate. Federalism requires a clear delineation of powers shared between the state and federal governments. International trade agreements blur these distinctions, and grant foreign investors rights, participation, and representation superior to that of U.S. citizens.

NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Council of the City of Berkeley, to protect its citizens and defend Berkeley’s right of local sovereignty and oversight, oppose CAFTA and further urge that the United States Congress defeat it.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the City Manager is directed to post this Resolution on the World Wide Web and to send copies of this Resolution to our elected representatives in the California State Legislature: Assemblymember Loni Hancock and Senate Majority Leader Don Perata; our elected representatives in the U.S. House and Senate: Representative Barbara Lee and Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein; and the appointed U.S. Trade Representative, Robert B. Zoellick.

** Statement of Congresswoman Hilda Solis Opposing CAFTA, May 28, 2004

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