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

 
July 19, 2013

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

In a July 19 letter, Bishop Stephen E. 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 "Every economic and political theory or action must set about providing each inhabitant of the planet with the minimum wherewithal to live in dignity and freedom, with the possibility of supporting a family, educating children, praising God and developing one's own human potential."

They noted that, as the United States currently negotiates trade agreements, the USCCB is not specifically for or against particular agreements. Bishop Blaire and Bishop Pates chair the USCCB Committees on Domestic Justice and Human Development and International Justice and Peace, respectively.

The bishops highlighted several areas of concern, including labor protections, care for indigenous people, the need to alleviate causes of migration, protection of agriculture in developing and rural areas, and sustainable development and care for creation.

"The essential link between preservation of the environment and sustainable human development requires giving priority attention to protecting the environment and health of communities, including assistance to poor countries that often lack sufficient technical knowledge or resources to maintain a safe environment," the bishops wrote. "Agreements should include relieving the crushing burden of external debt held by poor countries and support development which increases self-reliance and broad participation in economic decision-making."

Bishop Blaire and Bishop Pates also expressed concern over the need to balance intellectual property rights regarding pharmaceuticals with the needs of the poor, and over the practice of requiring sovereign parties to agree to binding international arbitration for dispute resolution.

"Our belief is that the primary benefit 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 is available 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, sustainable development and care for creation, intellectual property rights, dispute resolution mechanisms, fast track authority

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