Thursday, January 13, 2011

Why the U.S. would be crazy to sign a trade deal with Panama

Panama workers protest laws weakening their rights.
We're hearing that a job-killing trade deal with Panama might be sent to Congress later this year.

There are so many reasons to oppose this deal that it's hard to know where to start. But here's a try:

Panama is a great example of how trade deals in Latin America create political instability. President Martinelli (a free-trading supermarket billionaire) used anti-democratic methods to weaken unions that oppose the trade deal with Panama. Reports truthout (via Buzzflash)
Panama's combative labor unions would be unlikely to simply roll over and accept the looming corporate-style U.S.-Panama free trade agreement.
Martinelli last summer forced through a law that severely eroded labor protections and almost eliminated the right to assemble. It legalized the hiring of strikebreakers and granted police immunity for shooting striking workers. Panama's workers staged a general strike to protest the new law. As many as 11 protesters were killed. In the end, the law was rolled back in a great victory for workers.

There are plenty of other reasons to oppose a trade deal with Panama. It would reward a country that's been on every major list of tax havens and whose banks have repeatedly been accused of money laundering. The proposed deal would continue to allow Panama to protect money launderers and tax cheats. It would encourage U.S. companies to move to Panama, and it would give Panama-based subsidiaries of U.S. banks greater rights within the United States than the Constitution provides U.S. citizens.

Martinelli has also shown an indifference to following his own laws. It was recently revealed in diplomatic cables that the U.S. government believed Martinelli "may be willing to set aside the rule of law in order to achieve his political and developmental goals." He had tried to bully the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to wiretap his political rivals who oppose this trade deal.

As Global Trade Watch points out,
Since President Martinelli apparently can't be bothered to follow the laws of his own country, how can his government be trusted to follow an international agreement and help the U.S. government ferret out tax dodgers?