Peru FTA moves forward in Washington —despite protests

On Sept. 25 the Ways and Means Committee of the US House of Representatives voted to approve the US-Peru Free Trade Agreement (FTA, or TLC in Spanish), moving the agreement closer to approval by the full Congress. The bilateral trade accord was negotiated by the government of US president George W. Bush, a Republican; Congress is dominated by the opposition Democratic Party. The Peruvian Congress ratified the treaty in 2006 despite strong opposition from campesino, indigenous and labor groups.

On Sept. 24, one day before the Ways and Means Committee’s vote, about 25 people occupied the Portand, Oregon office of Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), a member of the committee, to demand that he oppose ratification. Activists blockaded the doorway with bags of corn and rice, which they said were “examples of the highly subsidized and artificially cheap US agricultural products that would be dumped on the Peruvian market if the FTA passes.” The group included members of the Portland Central America Solidarity Committee (PCASC) and labor leaders like Richard Beetle of Laborers Local 483.

Blumenauer has defended his support for the FTA, citing the inclusion of provisions in the deal that would force Peru to abide by international labor standards and environmental protections. Protesters pointed out that only the presidents of the two countries could file claims if labor standards were violated. “I’m not entirely comfortable leaving it up to George W. Bush to file a labor claim in Peru,” Daniel Denvir, a member of PCASC, told reporters at the protest. Denvir and three other activists were arrested after blocking the door to the office; they were charged with criminal trespass and were released that evening. On Sept. 25 Blumenauer voted to approve the FTA. (PCASC press release, Sept. 25; The Portland Mercury, Sept. 26)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Sept. 30

See our last post on Peru.