WASHINGTON (May 22, 2007)—Bishop Thomas G. Wenski welcomed the recently announced agreement on bipartisan trade policy as "a significant step forward in creating a more just and equitable U.S. trade policy."
Bishop Wenski, Chairman, Committee on International Policy, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), wrote to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson, Jr., and Ambassador Susan Schwab, U.S. Trade Representative.
Bishop Wenski said he did have some concerns about the agreement, which he shared in the letter.
Following is the full text of Bishop Wenski's letter.
May 18, 2007
The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
U.S. House of Representatives
Ambassador Susan Schwab
U.S. Trade Representative
Washington, DC 20508
The Honorable Henry M. Paulson, Jr.
Secretary of the Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington DC 20220
Dear Speaker Pelosi, Secretary Paulson and Ambassador Schwab:
I am writing on behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) regarding
the agreement you recently announced on a "bipartisan trade policy." While I do have some concerns that I will share with you, I want to welcome this agreement as a significant step
forward in creating a more just and equitable U.S. trade policy.
At a time of deep polarization in our country, your announcement also marks a refreshing
example of consensus and cooperation among political leaders, one that should be expanded to
other areas of our national debate. In addition, you have put forward the elements of a creditable
response to one of the major questions facing our country: How can we shape trade policy so that
it lifts up workers and their families here and abroad, ensures access to life-saving medicines for
those who need them and protects God's creation?
As pastors and teachers in a global Church, our experience of the impacts of economic
integration, its perils and possibilities, is both broad and deep. We share the concerns of so many
families in our own country who are often at the mercy of economic forces beyond the control of
our national policies. We support policies and programs that promote the welfare of workers in
our own nation, but at the same time sharing economic opportunities with people in weaker
economies is critically important. As the U.S. Bishops have said, "a society and an economy
such as ours can better adjust to trade dislocations than can poverty-ridden developing
countries." (Economic Justice for All, # 270.) The U.S. economy is a strong economy. But its
moral measure will depend on its ability to meet the needs of those who struggle, the working
poor, the sick and those who go without both here and abroad.
Drawing on the Church's social teaching, the Bishops' Conference has worked to educate on and
advocate for just trade policies, insisting that the human person and the human community be
placed at the center of economic activity. Our framework urges strong and enforceable
protections for workers and the environment. Initial indications show major progress in this
regard. We also urge that trade agreements protect and defend public health, especially in
developing countries. We are cautiously optimistic about the measures and look forward to
evaluating the precise language of the agreement when it is available. However, we hope that
there will be a strong commitment to ensure that poor people in developing countries have
effective access to life-saving medicines. We believe this can be achieved in ways that safeguard
intellectual property rights, encourage innovation and guarantee just remuneration.
Despite these positive policy commitments, we remain deeply concerned that our call for just
agricultural trade policies within trade agreements remains unanswered. The plight of small
farmers and farm workers in developing countries is well documented. Their ability to adapt to
market-forces and develop their operations in ways that maintain their livelihoods and the
stability of their communities should be enhanced, not undermined, through increased trade
opportunities. Together with my fellow bishops from several other countries, I remain deeply
concerned that your bipartisan trade policy may weaken protections for poor farmers and their
Destructive dislocation in rural communities can be mitigated by allowing countries to invoke
meaningful safeguard mechanisms to protect against sudden surges in imports, particularly of
sensitive products. Also, countries should assist those within their borders adversely impacted by trade agreements, similar to commitments you have made concerning U.S. workers. Without
compensatory mechanisms, trade policies can serve to "push" farmers off their lands and can
contribute to "illegal" migratory flows. I urge you to present a comprehensive trade and
development package that offers ways of helping our partners in developing countries protect
vulnerable workers and rural communities.
Concern for the rural poor takes on an added dimension in situations of violence and political
unrest. For example, the Colombian people face such significant internal challenges. The
Church has extensive experience in seeking ways to further the cause of national unity and
reconciliation in that country. I hope that USCCB can serve as a dialogue partner with all those
seeking prudent ways of building peace and security in Colombia.
Pope John Paul II taught us that, "If globalization is ruled merely by the laws of the market
applied to suit the powerful, the consequences cannot but be negative." (Ecclesia in America
#20.) Globalizing the economy will fall short in its duty to uphold human life and dignity unless
it is accompanied by a "globalization of solidarity." As you translate the best elements of the
"bipartisan trade policy" into the texts of the actual agreements with Colombia, Peru, Panama
and Korea, you will have the opportunity to strengthen solidarity with our trading partners at the
same time that you promote the welfare of vulnerable workers here at home.
With hope that the good work done so far will lead to economic justice for all, I remain
Most Rev. Thomas G. Wenski
Bishop of Orlando
Chairman, Committee on International Policy
CC: Rep. John Boehner, Minority Leader, U.S. House of Representatives
Majority Leader Reid, Minority Leader McConnell, U.S. Senate
Chairman Baucus and Ranking Member Grassley, Finance Committee, U.S. Senate
Chairman Rangel and Ranking Member McCrery, Committee on Ways and Means, U.S.
House of Representatives