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American bishops set impact on poor as Free Trade's 'moral measure'

The moral measure of any international trade agreement is how it impacts the poorest and most vulnerable, according to a statement from the bishops of the United States and Central America.

They issued a statement on Thursday expressing concerns about the recently signed US-Central American Free Trade Agreement.

"[Free Trade Agreements] must be part of a broader agenda of sustainable development that includes financial cooperation and migration policies and programs specifically designed to lift up sectors adversely affected by the agreement," said the statement.

The US-Central American Free Trade Agreement, signed in late May, includes El Salvador, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.

It follows the North American Free Trade Agreement between the US, Canada and Mexico, signed in the late 1990s, which has had an adverse effect on Mexico's poor.

The American statement is of particular interest in Australia, as the Australian Labor Party debates internally whether it will give Senate support required for the enactment of the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement.

Meanwhile The Age reports this morning that Australia and Malaysia have paved the way for a free trade agreement between the two countries.

Sr Suzette Clark of the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council and the Sisters of Charity Advocacy Network commented earlier this year that trade agreements between two nations are "detrimental to global cooperation", and "have social implications for the poor and marginalised".

"In Australia, as more industries go off shore and as tariffs drop, factories close and this reduces employment possibilities especially for unskilled labour."

Bishops want free trade accord as part of global development plan (Catholic News Service 23/7/04)
Network's call for Govt transparency on Free Trade Agreement (CathNews 12/2/04)

Criteria Outlined for Judging U.S.-Central American Trade Pact (Zenit 25/7/04)
Joint Statement outlines Criteria for Judging U.S.- Central American free Trade Agreement (US Conference of Catholic Bishops 23/7/04)
Australia and Malaysia explore FTA (The Age 27/7/04)
US bishops backing small farmer opposition to Free Trade (CathNews 29/10/03)
Network's call for Govt transparency on Free Trade Agreement (CathNews 12/2/04)
Bishop says free trade threatens sovereignty and democracy (CathNews 25/11/03)
Commission warns of free trade threat (CathNews 31/10/03)

27 Jul 2004