Monday, November 21, 2011



By Henry Curtis

Representative Neil Abercrombie generally opposed U.S. free trade agreements: Peru (2007), Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) (2005), Australia (2004), and Singapore (2003).

He co-authored the Trade Reform, Accountability, Development, and Employment Act (TRADE Act) in 2009. The proposed bill would limit expedited approval or fast tracking unless there were provisions safeguarding labor, human rights, environment, public safety, and food. The TRADE Act also required a review of NAFTA and the WTO. Representative Abercrombie supported assisting workers who lose jobs due to globalization (2007) and withdrawing from the World Trade Organization (WTO) (2000).

On the opening day of APEC Hawaii 2011 Governor Neil Abercrombie held a press conference at the guarded Hawai`i Convention Center. I asked him “Are there any downsides to APEC?” and he replied: “Not for us.”

APEC is closely tied to the World Trade Organization

APEC Ministers Meeting  (Big Sky, Montana, United States,  May 19 – 20, 2011): “We, the APEC Ministers responsible for Trade ...take considerable satisfaction in the success of the WTO, its existing framework of rules, and its consultative mechanisms in contributing to the beginnings of global economic recovery. The WTO has amply proven its worth as a bulwark against protectionism during a highly challenging period....We also reaffirm our undertaking to comply with WTO agreements as well as to continue to ensure transparency and predictability in implementing measures that impact on trade and investment.

Leaders' Declarations (Honolulu, Hawaii, Nov. 12 – 13, 2011): “We urge WTO Members meeting at the Eighth Ministerial Conference in December 2011 to build on the commitment made at APEC through agreement on an anti-protectionist pledge. We direct APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade to use the 2012 meeting in Kazan to assess ways to promote progress on ... the WTO.”

WTO Trade Disputes

In 2008 Canada initiated a trade dispute to the WTO regarding the United States concerning certain mandatory country of origin labeling (COOL) provisions. 

Associated Press (November 19, 2011): “WTO panel rules against U.S. country-of-origin labels. The WTO says the 2008 regulations on cattle and hog exports from Canada and Mexico violate international rules.” 

Larry Geller: WTO ruling against country of origin labeling will screw Hawaii beekeepers

In 2008 Mexico initiated a trade dispute with the United States regarding whether “dolphin safe” label on tuna products are permitted under the Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Agreement. 

Reuters (Sept. 15, 2011): “A World Trade Organization panel has partially backed a Mexican complaint about U.S. rules restricting imports of Mexican tuna, potentially opening the door to tuna imports for the first time in 20 years.” 

In 2010 Japan brought a trade dispute to the WTO regarding Canada's feed-in tariff program.

In 2010 Indonesia brought a trade dispute to the WTO regarding the United States with respect to a provision of the Family Smoking Prevention Tobacco Control Act of 2009 that bans clove cigarettes.  

“APEC seeks to achieve Regional Economic Integration: The Regional Economic Integration (REI) Agenda is a multi-year programme for APEC's work toward the Bogor Goals - that is, toward its goals of free and open trade and investment. As an ideal, APEC envisions a single, region-wide FTA.”

The APEC 2011 CEO Summit was held as part of APEC Hawaii 2011. The CEO Summit met at the Sheraton Hotel in Waikiki. The CEO Summit  included a meeting by the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC).

Tony Nowell, Chairman of the ABAC Regional Economic Integration Working Group: “What we find as business people as we cross boarders and move around economies, one of the greatest impediments to effective trade and to efficient business is that we are dealing with different regulations in almost every economy that we move into. We’re not asking for every regulation to be the same. We are asking for coherent regulations ...[for example] the issue of what we call labor mobility.

As economies grow they don’t all grow at the same rate, and of course you have labor at times, which is in surplus in one economy, and a deficit in another economy, and there needs to be the opportunity for labor mobility across the region, so that the labor can go to where the demand is. To often this comes up against a roadblock because our officials immediately see this as an immigration issue. It is not an immigration issue. This is about the temporary flow of labor, that is a key focus for us.”

Trade in Services

Public services include public utilities (water and electricity supply), healthcare, postal services, education, etc.  The General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) focuses on applying free trade to public services.

Tony Nowell: “We find in fact across the Asia Pacific economy, that services are now in fact greater than 50% of total GDP across the region and approaching approximately 60% of all employment, is  in the service sector. The issue of services is that they are not well treated within free trade agreements historically. Historic agreements have been more about the issue of trade in goods, and the future it will be more and more, in the virtual world we live in, the trade in services”

For example, Enron sought to privatize water systems in other countries. Their companies should have equal rights to privatize ours, which is why they are all salvating about Hawai`i’s resources. We have resources they want to get their mitts on. Governor Abercrombie has gone from opposing Most Favored nation status for the Chinese when he was in the House, to asking HECO at APEC if they had approached China for money.

I asked “Are there any downsides to APEC?” and Governor Abercrombie replied: “Not for us.”

I wonder who he was talking about. It wasn’t us, the 99%, who will have our jobs exported or our resources ripe for plundering.

Imagine a world where you are taught on-line, your medical analysis is done on-line and where police videos are monitored on-line, all by foreigners in foreign countries who are willing to be paid less and were there is no right to organize.

See also: 

Eric Gill re APEC

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I don't see a flip flop here. It appears Abercrombie was responding as Governor of the host city and not commenting about trade policies.

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