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Congress “Dumps On” Peru With New Fair Trade Agreement

December 2007

The U.S. Senate ignored the wishes of 4 million Peruvian farmers and countless numbers of American family farmers, ranchers, and consumers earlier this month when it voted to create a new Peru Free Trade Agreement (Peru FTA). The agreement, modeled on failed free trade policies such as NAFTA and CAFTA, will allow American agribusinesses to dump tons of below-cost commodities such as corn and soybeans into the Peruvian economy, thereby creating unfair competition for Peruvian farmers. It will also allow Peru to flood the U.S. market with cheap fruits and vegetables at a time when American family farmers are trying to build sustainable food systems by offering affordable local produce to consumers.

Furthermore, although Congress managed to negotiate some labor and environmental standards into the Peru FTA, the agreement does not include food safety standards for imported Peruvian beef, despite a history of foot-and-mouth disease in the country. The FTA would also allow cattle from non-Peruvian countries to be slaughtered in Peru and given preferential access to U.S. markets, thereby threatening American ranchers.

Grassroots International was one of 30 organizations that sent a letter to Senators on Dec. 3, urging them not to follow in the footsteps of the House of Representatives, which in November had voted 285-132 in favor of the Peru FTA. But a day after the letter was sent, the Senate ratified the agreement by a vote of 77-18.

George Naylor, an Iowa farmer and president of the National Family Farm Coalition — a GRI grantee — said in a statement that “there is no excuse for Congress to support one more free trade agreement, given the very apparent record of free trade displacing rural people and farmers from their communities. Meanwhile, the benefits only go to multinational corporations that export and process cheap agricultural commodities.”

After the Senate vote, Mississippi farmer Ben Burkett, who belongs to the Federation of Southern Cooperatives — another GRI grantee — wrote an op-ed opposing the Peru FTA. He pointed out that before NAFTA was put in place, he thought free trade would help him access new markets.

“I quickly found out how wrong I was when many of the farmers in my cooperative lost our cucumber contracts from corporations such as Heinz and Vlasic, who chose to buy instead from Mexico.”

According to Public Citizen, not one U.S. environmental, labor, family farm, Latino, consumer, or faith group supported the Peru FTA. And in July, 4 million Peruvian peasant farmers staged a two-day strike, voicing opposition to the agreement.

The Bush administration is expected to negotiate additional FTA’s with South Korea, Panama, and Colombia in the near future. In the face of these additional threats, Grassroots International and its partners are building fair trade around the world. We hope you will join with us in a growing movement that is pushing for international trade policies that favor small, sustainable farms and that help farmers create food sovereignty in their own countries.

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