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April 23, 2014 | 23rd Nisan 5774

International Trade

PROPOSED RESOLUTION ON INTERNATIONAL TRADE

Submitted by: The Commission on Social Action
Recommended by: The Resolutions Committee
 
BACKGROUND

Globalization involves the increasing integration of economies across national borders, affecting goods and services, as well as ideas, information, and technology.  Today, globalization is creating a qualitatively new economy, with the rules increasingly defined by international agencies such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, as well as the G-7/G-8 summits (the annual economic conferences of the world’s wealthiest countries).

Liberalization of markets, domestic and international, brings with it the opportunity for economic growth, particularly for poorer nations.  Trade and competition can lower prices internationally, allowing more consumers to enter the market.  Trade can also generate new employment opportunities as multinational corporations spread new technologies and advance business processes.  Globalization brings nations together and can encourage greater cooperation.  By bringing nations into a world spotlight, globalization potentially can lead to openness and visibility in economic decision-making processes  (“transparency”) and democratization, which can lead to improved conditions for millions. 

But international trade can also bring a degraded environment, human rights abuses, and lowered labor standards, internationally and domestically, both as a result of increased economic activity in countries with no or low standards and “harmonization,” the process by which the World Trade Organization replaces specific national standards with uniform global standards. 

Fundamental values of equity, democracy, and environmental protection are at stake in the way international trade is organized and governed by the World Trade Organization (WTO).  Power is not currently distributed equitably among WTO members. Its sessions are not democratic, and negotiations and disputes of resolutions are conducted behind closed doors without an appeals process. There is also a lack of public input and disclosure.  These conditions are also prevalent in other multinational trade bodies.  Since any domestic safety standard can be deemed unfair, and therefore illegal, by the WTO, depending upon its rulings, it is possible that eventually only the weakest standards will remain in effect.  International labor and environmental standards should not be reduced to the lowest common denominator; rather, nations should work together to raise international standards while helping other nations develop.

Our tradition teaches that from the time of Creation, people from all over the world are intended to share our planet and its resources. When we uphold this principle and our understanding that every human being is created b'tzelem Elohim, “in the image of God”, we come to understand the interconnected nature of our existence, and the need to focus on these values as we enter an era of greater global interaction.

THEREFORE, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations resolves to:

1. Support free trade, provided the following principles are upheld in international agreements:

A.Trade and investment relationships assiduously protect and promote the dignity  of all people, ensure the development and well-being of people in all nations,   and secure the earth’s natural environment in all its bounty and diversity for present and future generations;

B.Trade and investment policies and decisions are transparent, involve the participation of all stakeholders, empower the most vulnerable, and raise and maintain international standards rather than lower them;

C.Trade and investment systems actively safeguard the environment, place a high premium on sustainability, and account for environmental and social costs in the pricing of goods and services; and

D.Trade and investment practices take into account the well-being of workers through means such as job safety, fair and humane working conditions, and sustainable wages;

2.Call on the governments of the United States and Canada to assume leadership roles by entering into international agreements that promote strong environmental, labor, and human rights standards;

3.Urge American and Canadian companies and investors to commit to strong environmental, labor, and human rights standards in their business practices, both domestically and abroad;

4.Urge American and Canadian companies to ensure that the public here and abroad has access to information on how corporations owned or operated in the United States or Canada treat their workers, local communities, and the environment;

5.Participate in interreligious dialogue on international trade and investment;

6.Provide educational material and information to our congregations on the implications of globalization and call upon them to act in the spirit of this resolution.

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