Posted January 6, 2009 by

Food security

At the beginning of a new year, it's always worth looking back on the good work of the last year before we are humbled by the work to come. Thanks to John Nichols of The Nation for toasting the good work being done by progressives—people and organizations—in 2008. We thank him for naming IATP as the "Most Valuable Policy Group" for our work on the global food crisis, particularly two papers by our Trade and Global Governance team: Commodities Market Speculation: The Risk to Food Security and Agriculture and Bridging the Divide: A Human Rights Vision for Global Food Trade.

If 2008 was the year of crisis (financial, food, climate, etc.), let's hope 2009 is the year of solutions.

Posted January 5, 2009 by

Last week, on January 1, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) celebrated its 15th anniversary. You weren't invited to the party? Don't feel left out: neither were most U.S., Mexican and Canadian citizens. Over the last 15 years, NAFTA has become short-hand for a disastrous U.S. free trade agenda that has trampled over workers, farmers, consumers and the environment.

Nafta_4_issue Will we see a change in U.S. trade policy in 2009? During last year's election, President-elect Barack Obama pledged to "amend the North American Free Trade Agreement." According to the campaign's Web site, "Obama and Biden believe NAFTA and its potential were oversold to the American people."

Earlier today, 60 civil society organizations (including IATP) sent a letter to Obama urging him to follow through on his promise to renegotiate NAFTA. The letter prioritized ten areas for renegotiation: agriculture, energy, foreign investment, financial services, the state and services, employment, migration, environment, intellectual property rights and dispute settlement provisions. The recommendations are based on a set of proposals developed last year by civil society organizations from the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

In a press release, IATP's Dennis Olson commented on the need for new agriculture rules under NAFTA: "To be effective, any new approach to trade must take into account that agriculture and food are unique and should not fall under the same trade rules as TV sets. Countries must have the policy flexibility to address the current global food crisis."

As the debate about NAFTA takes place in the U.S., it's important to recognize the damage this agreement has caused to all three countries. As Kevin Gallagher and Tim Wise of Tuft's Global Development and Environment Institute wrote recently in the Guardian, "Estimates vary, but Mexico probably gained about 600,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector since NAFTA took effect, but the country lost at least two million in agriculture, as cheap imports of corn and other commodities flooded the newly liberalized market."

Job creation and revitalizing the staggering U.S. economy will be at the top of the new Obama team's agenda in 2009. A new approach to trade, and NAFTA, will have to be an essential part of any economic recovery plan.

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