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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 5/22/09

Facing Progressive Pressure, Obama Backs off Panama Free Trade Agreement

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This is huge news for the Make Him Do It Dynamic!

May 21 (Bloomberg) -- A U.S. trade accord with Panama, which is opposed by labor unions, won't be submitted to Congress for approval until President Barack Obama offers a new "framework"- for trade, an administration official said.

The decision, announced by Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Everett Eissenstat at a Senate Finance Committee hearing today, is a reversal from statements in March that the U.S. wanted to pass the accord soon...

Eissenstat's comments follow remarks by John Sweeney, the head of the AFL-CIO labor federation, that unions would oppose a rush to ratify the deal. Also today, 55 House Democrats told House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to reject the Panama accord unless it is renegotiated.

If you regularly read, you know we here at the Campaign for America's Future have been tracking this story, including the AFL-CIO announcement [1] and the announcement today by the Populist Caucus [2] to put major pressure on the White House to stop this NAFTA-style agreement. Indeed, as someone who has been working on this issue for a decade, I never thought I'd actually see the day where we, the progressive movement, could actually make a president back off (even temporarily) the NAFTA trade model.

Hilariously, Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), the K Street trade lobbyist dressed up as a U.S. Senator [3], has been relegated to desperation, insisting that we must pass the Panama Free Trade Agreement immediately despite the loophole-riddled pact and despite the country's status as a tax haven because "The Panamanians may back out."- Yes, that's right - Congress must pass this because it is supposed to take orders from the Panamanian government. What a joke.

Where this all goes from here is anyone's guess - it might just be a temporary delay with no change, but it might be something much bigger. Either way, as I've said before [4], what we're seeing is very real evidence of the potential for major change. You've got a White House retreating, you've got the Congress's chief trade sell-out making laughably absurd arguments, you've got progressive institutions making demands, and you've got rank-and-file Democratic lawmakers insisting on reforms.

As I said, this is what the Make Him Do It Dynamic [5] looks like.


[1] click here

[2] click here
[4] click here
[5] click here


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David Sirota is a full-time political journalist, best-selling author and nationally syndicated newspaper columnist living in Denver, Colorado. He blogs for Working Assets and the Denver Post's PoliticsWest website. He is a Senior Editor at In These Times magazine, which in 2006 received the Utne Independent Press Award for political coverage. His 2006 book, Hostile Takeover, was a New York Times bestseller, and is now out in paperback. He has been a guest on, among others, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC and NPR. His writing, which draws on his (more...)

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