Rep. Rushing, Janet Eaton, Peter Riggs, Karen O'Donnel Speak For Bill H374 Mass

Posted on Friday, April 04 at 17:19 by Janet M Eaton

 State House info session builds support for H374

 by Barbara Clancy, Boston Cambridge Alliance for Democracy

 A state-level trade commission could protect states' rights, promote regional economic development, and focus some badly-needed attention on the SPP [NAFTA -Plus Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America], according to speakers at a State House info session on H374, the Globalization Impact Bill.

 Rep. Byron Rushing, Canadian academic/ activist Dr. Janet Eaton, Peter Riggs of the Forum on Democracy and Trade, Cambridge City Counselor Sam Seidel, and former state rep and union activist Karen O'Donnell spoke in favor of the bill on Wednesday, March 26. The bill has received a favorable recommendation from the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technology, and we are waiting to see if it is assigned to a second committee or goes right to a vote.

 The session was well-attended by legislative aides and AfD members, thanks to outreach by Rushing's office, and some State House office visits on Tuesday by Janet Eaton, Karen O'Donnell and David Lewit.

 Rep. Rushing outlined H374's roots in the Commonwealth's "Burma Law," which barred purchase of goods or services from corporations doing business there. Designed as a way of furthering human rights, and modeled on the disinvestment campaigns that helped bring down the racist regime in South Africa, the Burma bill was ruled unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court, after US corporations sued Massachusetts, and after Japan threatened to take the law before the WTO. Further NAFTA-related legal wrangling over a development project in downtown Boston highlighted the necessity of "an official Massachusetts voice" in subsequent trade treaty processes.

 One trade agreement looming over Massachusetts and the region is the SPP, and Janet Eaton praised the idea of a state-level advisory group as a way to shed light on this murky "handshake agreement." The more people learn about the SPP, she noted, the more opposition to it builds. Significant oversight of the SPP is needed, however, and H374 would provide both an official assessment and the opportunity for constituents to speak out on trade and 'so-called security measures' as well. (Note: We hope to have Janet's powerpoint presentation and video of her talk at Cambridge Community Television available soon.)

 Peter Riggs noted that WTO and federal authority is encroaching on state authority, to the point where "the survival of federalism is at stake." Decision-making has tipped away from a balance between state and federal jurisdiction to where trade policy is increasingly developed and enforced by international bodies. One example--siting of liquid natural gas facilities, which at one point was going to be put under WTO rule. "It's precisely because you had states with commissions that this hasn't gone forward," said Riggs. "It's crucial that states restore the balance," he said, especially when the "coercive power" of trade deals are used "to twist the arms of states and cities."

 A state-level trade commission is also an important resource in an age where globalization affects local economies, noted Sam Seidel. Cambridge's economy, for instance, is globalized at every level, from immigration to emerging technologies, and so there should be local input in developing global trade policies. The federal system "is very powerful, and we should be wary of turning it over to committees and agreements over which we have no oversight."

 Former Representative Karen O'Donnell pledged support of the Mass AFL-CIO to H374, noting that so-called "Free Trade Agreements" have never had the support of labor. Jay McCaffrey, of the Massachusetts Sierra Club, also pledged support for the bill.

 We look forward to hearing about the next step this bill will take toward passage. Thanks to everyone who called to help it out of committee.






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