The pitfalls of free trade

Your April 20 article "Bush seeks free trade from Argentina to Arctic" overlooks some points in opposition to the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), including:

Free trade threatens governments by greatly reducing government regulation of corporations and allowing corporations to sue governments. Such transfer of power has disturbing implications reaching far beyond trade relations.

Free trade threatens workers. When corporations can move wherever labor is cheapest and workers' rights are least respected, all working people are endangered. Free trade threatens the environment. When environmental standards are seen as barriers to trade and governments are forced to lower them to compete, we are in serious trouble.

Free trade threatens democracy. The very way the FTAA is being set up is undemocratic. From what I understand, the negotiations for the FTAA were near-secret until recently. If the FTAA is really a tool for expanding democracy, why does our president wish to still the voice of the people through their representatives in Congress by gaining "fast track" authority?

The FTAA is not a tool for expanding democracy; it is a tool for expanding corporate rule. No one elected corporations, and they are not answerable to the people. Increasing their control of our country and world would be tantamount to moving toward an oligarchy.

Megan Kaseman Stoughton, Wis.

It was with great sorrow that I read your April 17th article "One town's tale of sneaker economics," about the closure of the last American plant manufacturing Converse shoes, and the loss of 6,500 well-paying jobs. This is all-too-familiar news. However, the statements quoted that "the American consumer doesn't care much about Made in the USA," and "the American consumer killed Converse," are unfair.

For the multinational companies that relocated these jobs overseas, only the bottom line counts. They have no loyalty, except to their shareholders. Only in the alternative press do we get a fuller picture of the criminal exploitation of the workers in those jobs exported to Asia and Latin America.

Margot Coker Pittsburg, Calif.

Finding faith behind bars

Your April 17 look at faith-based prison programs, "A spiritual approach to time behind bars," directs a light toward a deep wound in our country. We are treading water with almost 2 million incarcerated youth, women and men. Rightfully we are leery of "jailhouse conversions" and pop psychology, but unsure of what else can be done, and with no clear directive except to house those convicted of crimes in often-dysfunctional environments.

How very important it will be if faith-based prison programs can provide an environment conducive to spiritual practice, without emphasizing "a quick fix." This may not be easy, but it is possible and so very needed. Personal redirection and growth are best done within a community of support.

Samuel M. DuBois Spruce Pine, N.C. Mountain View Correctional Facility

Not such an ivory tower after all?

Thank you for including in your April 26 News In Brief the story of students protesting for living wages for workers at Harvard. What makes this protest so interesting is that the students sitting-in would not be the main beneficiaries, should Harvard start to pay its workers a better wage; in fact, the students' tuition could increase. Perhaps those students realize that their own moral well-being is tied up in the dignity and welfare of all those around them. What a selfless thought for our too-often selfish world.

Avi Green Boston

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(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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