PICA :: Peace Through Interamerican Community Action

Supporting Fair Trade
Fair Trade Festival
Global Trade Watch Director Lorl Wallach and Gov. John Baldacci at the Fair Trade Fest

PICA is dedicated to making sure workers’ rights, environmental protection, and democracy are given at least as much weight as corporate profits when our leaders make decisions about trade and development. We are working to promote policies that will help communities reclaim their power to determine what kind of development they want, and to build local economies that promote human rights and sustainability instead of undermining the values most Mainers share.

PICA’s Fair Trade work includes:

The Dangers of “Free Trade”

In today’s global economy, trade is no longer just about two countries selling goods to each other. Our government has negotiated trade agreements that undermine our labor and environmental laws by labeling them “barriers to trade,” and that limit state and local governments’ ability to develop policies that support local businesses and farmers. The U.S. and other wealthy countries are working through the World Trade Organization to impose these same policies on the whole world.

Between 1993 and 2005 new trade rules cost Maine 18,800 manufacturing jobs. Trade agreements like NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) and DR-CAFTA (the Dominican Republic – Central American Free Trade Agreement) make it easier for companies to manufacture their goods in countries with lower wages and weaker labor and environmental laws than ours, and then sell those products here for prices much lower than those U.S. manufacturers can afford to charge. (Here is a document from the Maine Department of Labor showing Trade Adjustment Assistence manufacturing job losses from 1993-2005. (PDF format: 626 Kb)

Rev. Billy
Reverend Billy and the Gospel Choir bring the Church of Stop Shopping to Bangor

People in poor countries are paying a high price, too. The same big that are driving small farmers in Maine out of business with low prices, financed by government subsidies, can now sell their products with no restrictions in places like Mexico, Colombia, and El Salvador. They are undercutting local producers, forcing entire communities to give up farming and abandon the land. This rising unemployment drives factory wages in those countries down further. And countries are forced into a “race to the bottom” in which those countries with the lowest wages and the weakest regulations get the most foreign investment. Workers who earn thirty-three cents an hour at sweatshops in Nicaragua constantly face the threat that the companies they work for will move their factories to China in search of even cheaper labor.

But it’s not just agriculture and manufacturing that are harmed by these “Free Trade” policies. Eastern Maine faces a new problem as large retailers build “Big Box” stores that squeeze local stores out of business.   For more about the problems, and PICA’s campaign to address them, go to the Web page on the Eastern Maine Fair Economy Commission.