Of Trade Agreements, Bishops Declare
WASHINGTON (October 19, 2005) – In the wake of the recently approved Central American Free Trade Agreement bishops from 19 Western Hemisphere countries expressed both "hopes and concerns" about such agreements, and said their moral measure is in how they advance human dignity and development.
"The moral measure of trade agreements should not be just the growth achieved and the products shipped, but the lives protected and the dignity enhanced, especially among the most vulnerable sectors," the bishops said in a joint communiqué following several days of meetings designed to probe the moral and social justice aspects of trade agreements.
The Trade, Growth and Poverty Reduction: Public Policy, Moral Aspects and Social Justice Conference was jointly organized by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Latin American Episcopal Council, under the sponsorship of the Inter-American Development Bank. It was held September 7 and 8 in Washington.
"We believe trade policies must be fashioned in ways that stimulate economic growth while at the same time giving priority to integral human development that builds solidarity, improves the common good of all, and in an essential way reduces poverty, exclusion and hunger," the bishops said.
They expressed hope that the creativity and economic growth unleashed by increased global trade would also strengthen the capacity of society to provide for the common good.
While hopeful, the bishops also expressed concerns about the impact of trade agreements.
"The market has its own logic," they said, "but it does not have its own ethic." Regulations around things like intellectual property rights, access to technology and information, transparency and civil society participation, agricultural policies, labor standards, and environment regulations must promote sustainable development and promote the common good of all, especially the poor, they said.
NOTE: The full text of the final communiqué, together with its signatories, is posted on the Web at: www.usccb.org/sdwp/international/tradeind.htm