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US bishops offer moral framework for trade agreements

July 23, 2013

In a letter to Ambassador Michael Froman, who was recently confirmed as United States Trade Representative, the heads of two committees of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) offered a “moral framework” for examining prospective trade agreements.

“The USCCB does not take specific positions for or against particular trade agreements; rather we offer principles that defend human life and dignity, protect the environment and public health, and promote justice and peace in our world,” wrote Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice, and Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Human Development, in their July 19 letter.

The bishops said that key areas of concern include labor protections, respect for indigenous peoples, the environment, debt relief, the access of the poor to medicines, the “alleviation of the conditions that impel people to leave their homelands,” and “the vulnerability of small agricultural producers when confronted with competition by US agricultural products that enjoy a notable advantage due to US government policies.”

“We question the merits of requiring sovereign parties to international treaties to agree to binding international arbitration as the forum for dispute resolution,” the bishops added. “Such a path may lead to unfair advantages for commercial interests willing to exploit the rules of the arbitral system and may result in the weakening of important environmental, labor, and human rights standards.”


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  • Posted by: unum - Jul. 23, 2013 5:58 PM ET USA

    So Bishops Blaire and Pates are now experts in international trade and willing to share their expertise (or lack thereof) with the office of the U.S. Trade Representative. They shouldn't be surprised if our secular government chooses to be guided by the Congress which must approve trade agreements. Of course they could have addressed their letter to the Catholic laity, a number of whom are involved in trade and can lobby effectively. But then, that would be teaching, wouldn't it?