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Published August 08, 2011, 04:44 AM

Agreements with South Korea, Colombia, Panama could price small farmers out of market

WASHINGTON — Picture this. Pacific Rim, a multinational corporation, wants to mine for gold in El Salvador using dangerous chemicals that would threaten the water supply of poor communities. Communities fight back — despite intimidation and even murder of local activists — and win new mining safeguards from their government.

By: Bill Waren,

WASHINGTON — Picture this. Pacific Rim, a multinational corporation, wants to mine for gold in El Salvador using dangerous chemicals that would threaten the water supply of poor communities. Communities fight back — despite intimidation and even murder of local activists — and win new mining safeguards from their government.

In retaliation, Pacific Rim sues the El Salvadoran government through an international tribunal, demanding millions of dollars in compensation.

This frightening, true story was made possible by a free trade agreement that El Salvador signed in 2005 with the United States and neighboring countries.

Eye on quick profits

Congress is preparing to vote on three nearly identical agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama. Each would empower multinational investors to pursue quick profits at the expense of human rights, environmental protections and sustainable development.

This is unacceptable — and there’s time to stop these deals. Tell your House member and senators to oppose all three harmful trade pacts.

The trade pact with Colombia is alarming. It could fuel that country’s on-going armed conflict by pricing small farmers out of the market and into coca production for drug lords and paramilitary groups.

It also would encourage destructive investments in palm oil plantations, mines, oil drilling and other projects that would lead to deforestation and ruin pristine areas, causing the extinction of irreplaceable plant and animal species. Such projects also threaten to displace Afro-Colombian and indigenous peoples.

Environmental protections

The U.S. pacts with all three countries would open the door to attacks on environmental protections.

If, for instance, a South Korean chemical or uranium mining company thought a U.S. environmental law impinged on its “right” to make profits, it could sue our government through a tribunal, just as happened to El Salvador.

These are just a few examples of the damage that could result from these unfair trade agreements.

Raise your voice

Write to your representatives in Congress today and tell them to put the health of people and the planet before quick profits.

Since the early 1990s, Friends of the Earth has been a leader among environmental groups in working to transform trade policies that harm the environment and workers.

Thanks in part to our successful advocacy alongside a diverse coalition of union, consumer, faith and family farm groups, the U.S. hasn’t passed a new trade deal since 2007.

We cannot afford to let three bad deals slip through now and give corporations even more power to run roughshod over environmental and public health protections.

Please write your congressional delegation. Demand a “no” vote on the trade pacts with Colombia, South Korea and Panama. Act now so that your voice is heard.

Editor’s Note: Waren is a trade policy analyst for Friends of the Earth.

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