# Panama Free Trade Agreement



Populist Caucus, allies speak out for fair trade

Members of Bruce Braley's Populist Caucus were among 55 House members who took a stand against the Panama Free Trade Agreement today in an open letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

After the jump I've posted the full text of the letter, along with the list of those who signed. Here is an excerpt:

We believe trade agreements must meet basic standards protecting labor rights, environmental standards, food safety regulations, financial regulations, and taxation transparency. We are disturbed by Panama's tax haven status and the use of this tax haven by U.S. financial institutions like AIG and Citibank. The U.S. is currently contemplating stricter financial regulations to protect our economy, but the Panama FTA will likely weaken any such effort. We believe the Panama FTA should be renegotiated in order to address these outstanding issues.

President Obama campaigned effectively on changing the trade model and his message resonated with the American people.  We believe the Panama FTA falls far short of that commitment and it is not in the best interests of the American worker, our economy, or our country.  We share your commitment to fighting for working families and believe you can be an effective advocate for our cause.

The House members who signed the letter mostly belong to the Populist Caucus, House Trade Working Group, and/or the Progressive Caucus. I noticed that Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02) joined Braley (IA-01) among the 17 Populist Caucus members who signed. Representative Leonard Boswell (IA-03) was among six Populist Caucus members who did not sign. One Republican signed: Walter Jones (NC-03).

"Defending American competitiveness by fighting for fair trade principles" is one of the six key priorities for the Populist Caucus.

Later today, a U.S. Trade Representative announced that the Panama agreement "won't be submitted to Congress for approval until President Barack Obama offers a new 'framework' for trade." At Open left, David Sirota interpreted that announcement as a victory (albeit possibly only temporary) for the Populist Caucus, its allies and the AFL-CIO, which had already come out against the Panama agreement.

We'll see whether the White House is willing to deviate significantly from the NAFTA model in this agreement. Whatever the final outcome, I am glad to see a large House contingent taking a stand for fair trade.

I still hope the Populist Caucus will get more involved in the health care debate.

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