Tuesday, July 24, 2007

More NAFTA-Style Trade Pacts that Undermine Congress Plans to Counter Imported Food Safety Emergency

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) joins a consumer advocate and the president of an association of independent cattle ranchers to release a new report Wednesday documenting the connection between existing trade agreements and the growing threat posed by unsafe food imports – and how pending trade agreements would further undercut Congress’ efforts to remedy the problem.

As more attention is drawn to unsafe food imports, Americans are demanding action. Today nearly $65 billion in food is imported into the United States annually – nearly double the value before the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and World Trade Organization (WTO) were launched. NAFTA and WTO prioritized facilitating access for imports over consumer safety, requiring the United States to rely on foreign regulatory structures and foreign safety inspectors to ensure that food imports are safe. Unfortunately, data analyzed in the report – including new analysis of safety problems with the United States’ Peruvian and Panamanian seafood imports – vividly illustrate that many foreign regulatory systems are simply not up to the task.

Now, as Congress steps up to address the threat and Democratic presidential candidates prioritize new food safety plans, four proposed NAFTA-style trade pacts pending before Congress would replicate and lock in limits on the U.S. government’s ability to ensure imported food safety. Included in proposed “Free Trade Agreements” (FTAs) with Peru, Panama, Colombia and Korea are limits on safety standards the United States can require for imports and how much inspection is permitted. U.S. laws that extend beyond the FTAs’ restrictions that limit imported food access to the U.S. market are subject to challenge as “illegal trade barriers” before foreign trade tribunals. The participants will discuss ways for consumers to stay safe, including purchasing food from local producers, and discuss changes needed to U.S. trade and food safety policy. Contact Holly Shulman for an advance copy of the report, which is embargoed until Wednesday, 11 a.m. EDT.

WHO: Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio)
Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch division
Bill Bullard, C.E.O., Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF)

WHEN: 12:45 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, Wednesday, July 25

CALL-IN: Toll-free: 1-800-377-8846; International Toll: 1-302-709-8424
Participant passcode: 24825259#

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