The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) said it welcomes the recent announcement of the bipartisan trade policy as a significant step in creating a more just and equitable U.S. trade policy.
“At a time of deep polarization in our country, your announcement also marks a refreshing example of consensus and cooperation among political leaders, one that should be expanded to other areas of our national debate,” wrote Bishop Thomas Wenski in a recent letter on behalf of the USCCB.
The letter was addressed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson, and Ambassador Schwab. Bishop Wenski is the metropolitan of Orlando and chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Policy
He said the proposed policy offers a credible response to a major question facing the U.S.: How can the country shape trade policy so that it lifts up workers and their families here and abroad, ensures access to life-saving medicines for those who need them, and protects God’s creation?
The bishops, however, remain deeply concerned that their call for just agricultural trade policies within trade agreements remains unanswered and that the proposed policy may weaken protections for poor farmers and their families, Bishop Wenski wrote.
“The plight of small farmers and farm workers in developing countries is well documented. Their ability to adapt to market-forces and develop their operations in ways that maintain their livelihoods and the stability of their communities should be enhanced, not undermined, through increased trade opportunities,” he wrote.
“I urge you to present a comprehensive trade and development package that offers ways of helping our partners in developing countries protect vulnerable workers and rural communities,” he said.
He noted that many developing countries, such as Colombia, face situations of violence and political unrest.
The bishop also said he hopes that USCCB can serve as a dialogue partner with those seeking ways of building peace and security in Colombia given the Church’s extensive experience in seeking ways to further the cause of national unity and reconciliation there.
In addition, the bishops urge that any trade agreements protect and defend public health, especially in developing countries and that poor people in developing countries have effective access to life-saving medicines.
“As you translate the best elements of the bipartisan trade policy into the texts of the actual agreements with Colombia, Peru, Panama and Korea,” he concluded, “you will have the opportunity to strengthen solidarity with our trading partners at the same time that you promote the welfare of vulnerable workers here at home.”