Bishops Blaire, Pates Offer Moral Framework For U.S. Trade Agreements In Letter To Trade Representative

July 19, 2013 By Public Affairs Office

WASHINGTON—When entering tradeagreements, the United States should support principles that "defend human lifeand dignity, protect the environment and public health, and promote justice andpeace in our world," wrote the bishops who oversee the justice and peace committeesof the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in a letter to new UnitedStates Trade Representative Michael Froman.

In a July 19 letter, Bishop StephenE. Blaire of Stockton, California, and Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines,Iowa, echoed the call of Pope Francis in his letter to G-8 leaders, that "Everyeconomic and political theory or action must set about providing eachinhabitant of the planet with the minimum wherewithal to live in dignity andfreedom, with the possibility of supporting a family, educating children,praising God and developing one's own human potential."

They noted that, as the UnitedStates currently negotiates trade agreements, the USCCB is not specifically foror against particular agreements. Bishop Blaire and Bishop Pates chair theUSCCB Committees on Domestic Justice and Human Development and InternationalJustice and Peace, respectively.

The bishops highlighted severalareas of concern, including labor protections, care for indigenous people, theneed to alleviate causes of migration, protection of agriculture in developingand rural areas, and sustainable development and care for creation.

"The essential link betweenpreservation of the environment and sustainable human development requiresgiving priority attention to protecting the environment and health ofcommunities, including assistance to poor countries that often lack sufficienttechnical knowledge or resources to maintain a safe environment," the bishopswrote. "Agreements should include relieving the crushing burden of externaldebt held by poor countries and support development which increasesself-reliance and broad participation in economic decision-making."

Bishop Blaire and Bishop Pates alsoexpressed concern over the need to balance intellectual property rightsregarding pharmaceuticals with the needs of the poor, and over the practice ofrequiring sovereign parties to agree to binding international arbitration fordispute resolution.

"Our belief is that the primarybenefit of economic exchange must be the improvement of living standards,particularly of poor and vulnerable workers and their families," they wrote.

The full text of the letter isavailable online: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/global-issues/trade/upload/USTR-letter-7-19-13.pdf

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Keywords: Bishop Stephen E. Blaire, Bishop Richard E. Pates,Justice, Peace and Human Development, principles, trade deals, Pope Francis,G-8, labor protections, indigenous people, migration, agriculture, sustainabledevelopment and care for creation, intellectual property rights, disputeresolution mechanisms, fast track authority

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