Posts Tagged ‘NAFTA’

In January 2008, I took a group of Equal Exchange staff to Chiapas, Mexico to learn about some of the current realities that indigenous rural communities there are facing and to visit with one of our small farmer coffee co-operative partners, CIRSA.  Mike Mowry, Quality Control Technician, was one of the participants on that trip.  The following is a reflection from Mike along with a song that he wrote about his experience, recorded by his band, The Stress.

Mark 053There are many things I could write about from the Equal Exchange staff trip to Chiapas, Mexico back in January of ’08, so finding a place to start can be a little intimidating.  As someone who has a deep-seated passion for coffee, my initial excitement about this trip was geared mostly around what I wanted to learn from our farmer-partners in terms of the intense work that goes into the coffee harvest, processing, and export.  As I hope consumers know, the work is back-breaking, labor intensive, and to top it all off, highly dependent on swift and exact timing.  But besides what I learned about coffee harvesting, I walked away from that trip with far more.

I left Chiapas with a deeper understanding of the real consequences of NAFTA, and the negative effects of free trade on small farmers and their communities.  While massive factory farms in the United States enjoy the benefits of government subsidies, small, rural farmers all over Mexico and Central America find the gap between their food supply and their means of controlling it growing further and further apart.  While genetically modified and state subsidized American corn hits Mexican markets at prices lower than it costs for Mexicans to sell their own, you have to ask yourself “what’s wrong with this picture?”  “How did we get here?”

Mark 135As a musician, I felt it important to write something about the experiences of those in Mexico for whom the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement was the last straw.  That’s the focus of the song “1994”, which I wrote with my band about a year after I returned from the trip to Chiapas to visit with one of our small farmer co-operative trading partners: Las Comunidades Indígenas de La Región de Simojovel de Allende; or CIRSA, for short.  The song focuses on the struggles of small farmers in Mexico, and the indigenous rebellion which exploded on January 1st, 1994 following the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

We hope that you enjoy the song.

Please feel free to share it with friends or family.

About The Stress:

The Stress is a four piece traditional ska, rocksteady and reggae band from Providence, RI and Boston, MA.  We take influence from a range of musicians; from traditional Jamaican music to 1960’s British Invasion rock.  If you’d like to hear more of The Stress, please feel free to check out our website.

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The TRADE Act, one of the few positive trade bills to come before Congress in a long time, could be voted on ANY DAY now. Our friends at the American Friends Service Committee have sent out this alert. Please take a moment to call your representatives and ask them to cosponsor the bill. It’s truly one of the few times you can call IN SUPPORT of something that will really improve the livelihoods of people on both sides of the border, protect labor rights and the environment. How often do you get that opportunity? Please call today! Below, the AFSC does a great job of summarizing the bill’s key points and reasons to advocate for its passage.


Click here to see a web version of this alert or access background materials


TAKE ACTION: Change the future of trade policy!


Last year, with your support, over 80 members of the U.S. House and Senate cosponsored landmark legislation setting forth a progressive vision for future trade agreements.  The Trade Reform, Accountability, Development and Employment (TRADE) Act is a positive bill that outlines a trade agenda that will support livelihoods and development in both rich and poor countries.


Your help is needed now to urge your congressional members to once again cosponsor the 2009 TRADE Act.  This groundbreaking initiative will likely be reintroduced next week and it needs as many original cosponsors as possible.  The bill has already won the support of hundreds of faith, farm, labor and environmental groups.  The more cosponsors the TRADE Act has when reintroduced, the more momentum we will gain for a fair trade agenda. 



Call your two U.S. representatives
and urge her/him to be an original cosponsor of the 2009 House TRADE Act.

 Call the Capitol Switchboard (212) 224-3121
 Click here to find your representative.   




The Trade Reform, Accountability, Development and Employment (TRADE) Act was first put forward in the 110th session by Sen. Sherrod Brown and Rep. Mike Michaud.  AFSC together with other faith-based organizations requested changes to that bill that reflect our values and Mr. Michaud’s office incorporated almost all of them!

With your help, the future of trade policy can be shaped today.

A Balanced Way to Expand Trade


  • The TRADE Act maps out a fair path forward, explaining what we care about in a good agreement. 
  • It lays out the blueprint for how we can fix the existing model, showing what a responsible pacts would look like, and the procedures needed to get us there.
  • The bill shifts the debate towards discussing a new and improved globalization model.
  • It moves beyond repeatedly fighting against expansions of failed policies, and sets a marker for where new discussion should start later this year.


Answering Failed Policies of the Past


  • Pacts such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) and the Peru Free Trade Agreement have not met up to their basic promises. 
  • These agreements should be serving a majority of people on issues such as wages, public health, the environment, human rights, food and consumer safety and access to essential services. 
  • Instead, these “free trade” policies have come at great costs.  The price we’ve paid in offshoring of jobs, downward pressure on wages, and damage to our environment and loss of family farms is far too great. 


The Purpose of the Trade Act


  • This initiative sets forth what we are for – shutting down the bogus claim that we oppose trade or have no alternative vision because we oppose these old failed agreements of the past.
  • This bill sets forth concrete ways to push our shared conviction that trade and investment are not ends unto themselves, but must also serve as a means for achieving greater societal goals.
  • This bill also serves as a litmus test.  By seeing who cosponsors — and who does not — we know who our trade champions are in the future.



Call the Capitol Switchboard TODAY

(212) 224-3121


For more information, click here.

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Equal Exchange joins a large number of organizations who are asking President-elect Obama to re-negotiate our trade agreements to ensure that all trade is fair trade, putting people and the planet over profits.

Press Release

For Immediate Release
January 5, 2009


Nearly 60 organizations and networks sent a letter to President-elect Obama  urging him to follow through on his campaign pledge to renegotiate NAFTA as a first step towards crafting an alternative trade model that puts people and the environment first over the profits of global corporations. 

“Our letter outlines the areas we think need the most urgent attention,” said Tom Loudon of the Quixote Center. “Based on many years of work, we have identified ten priority areas: agriculture, energy, foreign investment, financial services, the role of the State in the provision of services, employment, migration, environment, intellectual property rights and dispute settlement provisions.”

“To be effective, any new approach to trade must take into account that agriculture and food are unique and should not fall under the same trade rules as TV sets,” said Dennis Olson of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP). “Countries must have the policy flexibility to address the current global food crisis.”

Earlier this year, many of us were part of a three country effort which drafted a policy proposal entitled NAFTA Must be Renegotiated; A Proposal from North America Civil Society Networks,” Loudon continued.  “We envision new relationships between our countries that establish economic relations based on social justice within a paradigm of sustainable development.”


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“There used to be one bus a day leaving this area (Esquintla, Chiapas) heading north. Now, four buses a day go to the border…. And each is packed with our young boys. Today, with the conditions the way they are, youth have become our biggest export.” -Miguel Angel Barrios Bravo, president of a coffee co-operative affiliated with FIECH, the Indigenous Ecological Federation of Chiapas, one of Equal Exchange’s trading partners.

“You can build the Berlin Wall. You can build the China Wall. The U.S. can build a wall any size it wants. But they will never be able to stem the migration north as long as farmers are hungry and have no way to support their families.” -Gabriela Soriano, CIEPAC, the Center for Economic & Political Research for Community Action.

In January, I took a group of Equal Exchange staff to visit our trading partners in Chiapas. We also met with local organizations in San Cristobal to learn about the current political and economic realities of the region. Our first meeting was with CIEPAC, a very active organization devoted to research, analysis, education and action. We have been very impressed with CIEPAC’s work and last year Equal Exchange was able to facilitate a portion of our profits to support their educational programs. Unfortunately, others find their work with indigenous farmers threatening; CIEPAC’s offices have been raided on numerous occasions and individual staff members have received multiple death threats. 


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