Wall Street Journal | March 20, 2009
Pro-Free Trade Groups Put Together Broad Coalition
- A group founded by Bono is one of the pro-trade letter’s signatories. (Associated Press)
After years of watching the anti-free trade groups put together remarkably broad coalitions, the pro-free trade side is striking back.
In a March 20 letter to President Barack Obama and congressional leaders, a pro-free trade coalition urged the completion of the Doha free trade pact and a “reaffirmation” at the leaders summit of the Group of 20 nations of the “critical importance of rejecting destructive protectionism.”
“U.S. trade and development policies that promote global economic growth, encourage poverty alleviation, increase political stability and promote openness are not only in our economic self-interest, they are in our national interest,” the letter said.
The message wasn’t especially new for free-trade supporters, but the signers were. Along with the usual suspects - groups of exporters like the Business Roundtable and Emergency Committee for American Trade - was a selection of development groups and religious organizations. They include the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Bread for the World and One, the Africa development group founded by singer Bono. There were 17 signers in all.
The Center for Global Development, a development think tank that has long advocated expanded trade, was pushing the effort. “It’s to show there is some common ground, that there is more disparate group [of supporters],” said Kimberly Elliott, a trade specialist there. “We have a clearly bipartisan, broad left-right coalition.”
Public Citizen, the consumer group founded by Ralph Nader, has been at this kind of work for more than 15 years, but on the other side — organizing broad coalitions of unions, environmental groups, religious organization and others who oppose trade expansion. On March 18, Public Citizen and it allies put together their most recent letter, signed by around 350 groups, to new U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, which opposed the Doha round and other trade deals.
Lori Wallach, Public Citizen’s long-time anti-free trade organizer, was dismissive of corporate/religious group/development group effort. “This is nothing new,” she said in an e-mail. She said the development groups involved have long been in synch with exporters.