Religious Leaders Letter on NAFTA featured by CNS and Crux

Catholic News Service and Crux featured articles on the statement issued this week by Jubilee USA and religious leaders on NAFTA and access to medicines in trade agreements. 

Read excerpt below and follow link to the full Crux and Catholic News Service articles. 

Religious leaders say new NAFTA shouldn’t restrict access to medicines

Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services was one of seven U.S. religious leaders asking that any new North American Free Trade Agreement “avoid enhanced and extended monopolies on life-essential medicines.”

The May 18 letter, sent to President Donald Trump, administration officials and members of Congress, added: “Our faith traditions call us to care for the sick and respond to the needs of the poor in our societies. Trade agreements can have enormous impacts on the ability of the sick and the poor to access the medicines they need for healing and even survival.”

“We agree with the provisions of the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, currently in effect in all NAFTA countries. The TRIPS agreement calls for respect of intellectual property rights, including those for medicines,” the letter said.

“Crucially, as was underscored by the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health, it also recognizes each nation’s right to take necessary steps to ensure that medicines are available to all of their residents.”

“This ‘May 10th Agreement’ recognizes the flexibility in intellectual property rights provisions with regard to pharmaceuticals that developing countries sometimes need in order to serve the public health needs of their people,” the letter said. “We hope our political leaders can come together once again on these principles in support of the most vulnerable.”

“We ask that a renegotiated NAFTA reaffirm the TRIPS public health protections that enable the United States and other countries to promote the human right to health and access to medicines for all,” it added.

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National Catholic Reporter Publishes Op-ed by Eric LeCompte on Vatican Release

Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of Jubilee USA wrote an Op-ed featured in National Catholic Reporter called "Vatican's considerations on economic system call us to shape a new one" which talks about the Vatican's recent assessment of the economy in Oeconomicae et pecuniariae quaestiones

Read excerpt below and follow link to the full article.

 

Vatican's considerations on economic system call us to shape a new one

By: Eric LeCompte

The Vatican's recent assessment of the economy reveals a Catholic Church that is alive, engaging and relevant.

It reflects a Catholic Church that sees the suffering tied to our financial system as the church delivers aid to hurricane victims, refugees and homeless people. The document is tied to a church working with other faiths, in Puerto Rico and across the Caribbean calling for transparency, relief and an end to poverty. It illuminates the church that in 1999 helped gather 27 million petitions for the G-8 Cologne Summit, the forum of the world's leading industrial nations, urging the cancellation of debt burdens in Africa and across the developing world.

Not only do we see the continued application of Catholic teaching to understand our economy, the release is a culmination of decades of Holy See efforts to diminish poverty through the United Nations, the World Trade Organization and decision making fora around the world.

"Considerations for an Ethical Discernment Regarding Some Aspects of the Present Economic-Financial System" (Oeconomicae et pecuniariae quaestiones) shows a church spreading the Gospel outside of our church buildings and into the market place. The 15-page release from the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development show a church being relevant to current economic policy debates.

The Vatican's document lifts the reality that God has given us a rich and abundant world so each of us can reach our full potential and that we are closest to the Creator when we share these resources among us.

The global economy should support each individual to achieve their full potential, and each individual must rise to actively shape the economy to this purpose. The Vatican economy document asserts our responsibility to understand that "what is morally unacceptable is not simply to profit, but rather to avail oneself of an inequality for one's own advantage, in order to create enormous profits that are damaging to others."

In closing, the document offers each of us the invitation: "In front of the massiveness and pervasiveness of today's economic-financial systems, we could be tempted to abandon ourselves to cynicism, and to think that with our poor forces we can do very little. In reality, every one of us can do so much, especially if one does not remain alone."

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NAFTA/Trade Medicine Access, Interfaith Statement

The below statement was sent to President Trump, Members of Congress and Administration officials on May 18th, 2018

NAFTA and International Public Health: An Interfaith Call for Access to Medicines

Recognizing the inherent dignity of the human person, our faith traditions call us to care for the sick and respond to the needs of the poor in our societies. Trade agreements can have enormous impacts on the ability of the sick and the poor to access the medicines they need for healing and even survival.

Therefore, we agree with the provisions of the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), currently in effect in all NAFTA countries. The TRIPS agreement calls for respect of intellectual property rights, including those for medicines. Crucially, as was underscored by the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health, it also recognizes each nation’s right to take necessary steps to ensure that medicines are available to all of their residents.

We would also like to take this opportunity to commend the Administration’s defense of sovereignty on the issue of investor-state arbitration; each state has not only the right but the obligation to safeguard the common good within their nations.

At this time, we recall the Bipartisan Agreement on Trade Policy espoused by President George W. Bush and leaders of both parties in Congress in May 2007. This “May 10th Agreement” recognizes the flexibility in intellectual property rights provisions with regard to pharmaceuticals that developing countries sometimes need in order to serve the public health needs of their people. We hope our political leaders can come together once again on these principles in support of the most vulnerable.

We call on you to ensure that no terms of a renegotiated NAFTA go beyond the TRIPS agreement mandates, and avoid enhanced and extended monopolies on life-essential medicines. Instead, we ask that a renegotiated NAFTA reaffirm the TRIPS public health protections that enable the United States and other countries to promote the human right to health and access to medicines for all.

 

Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio
Chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace, The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Most Reverend Michael B. Curry
Presiding Bishop and Primate, The Episcopal Church

Reverend Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe
General Secretary of the General Board of Church and Society, The United Methodist Church

Reverend Dr. John C. Dorhauer
General Minister and President, The United Church of Christ

Reverend Elizabeth A. Eaton
Presiding Bishop, The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Reverend Dr. J. Herbert Nelson
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Eric LeCompte
Executive Director, Jubilee USA Network

 

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Vatican Urges Transparency to Address Inequality and Prevent Financial Crisis

The Vatican released an official assessment on global economics entitled, "‘Oeconomicae et pecuniariae quaestiones" or "Considerations for an ethical discernment regarding some aspects of the present economic-financial system." The document calls for improvements in global finance policies on debt resolution, taxation, financial crisis prevention and transparency. 

"The recent financial crisis might have provided the occasion to develop a new economy, more attentive to ethical principles, and a new regulation of financial activities that would neutralise predatory and speculative tendencies and acknowledge the value of the actual economy," reads the Vatican statement. "Although there have been many positive efforts at various levels which should be recognized and appreciated, there does not seem to be any inclination to rethink the obsolete criteria that continue to govern the world. On the contrary, the response seems at times like a return to the heights of myopic egoism, limited by an inadequate framework that, excluding the common good, also excludes from its horizons the concern to create and spread wealth, and to eliminate the inequality so pronounced today,' continues the Vatican assessment.

"The Catholic Church offers a profound analysis of what we need to prevent the next financial crisis and promote greater inclusion in our economic system," noted Jubilee USA Executive Director Eric LeCompte. LeCompte advises religious and Catholic Church leaders on the impacts of financial policies on vulnerable populations. "Debt, tax and trade policies are at the center of this debate and the Vatican is noting we need greater transparency in our economy."

The Vatican takes on a number of financial issues in their 15-page release including tax havens, debt relief, interest rates and risky market behavior. The document was authored jointly by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

"This document is significant because it carries the full weight of Catholic teaching that asserts that a financial system must serve all human beings, not just the interests of a few," stated LeCompte who serves on United Nation finance expert groups. "The Vatican is seeking to influence policies that can address inequality."

Read "‘Oeconomicae et pecuniariae quaestiones," or  in English, "Considerations for an ethical discernment regarding some aspects of the present economic-financial system" via this link

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Eric LeCompte's Thoughts Featured in ValueWalk Ahead of Next Hurricane Season

Eric LeCompte, executive director of Jubilee USA, was quoted in ValueWalk's article today "As Atlantic Region Braces For Another Damaging Hurricane Season, Concern Grows: Islands are unprepared as forecasters predict three hurricanes again" ahead of the next hurricane season.  The article highlights how meteorologists are predicting another three "major" hurricanes this season.  LeCompte stresses the need for disaster and debt relief mechanisms and payment moratoriums ahead of these storms.
To read the full article, click here.

As Atlantic Region Braces For Another Damaging Hurricane Season, Concern Grows: Islands are unprepared as forecasters predict three hurricanes again

Mark Melin   
May 17, 2018

Efforts to reduce the country’s debt load in the wake of the hurricane appear to be moving backward, according to UN sovereign debt consultant and Jubilee USA Executive Director Eric LeCompte. He points out that the initial offer to pay 25 cents on the dollar to investors has now moved 40 cents as serious consideration is being given to so-called G.D.P.-linked bonds tied to the success or failure of the nation’s economic engine.

While efforts to prepare Puerto Rico, a US territory, require a response from the wealthiest nation on earth, smaller independent islands are especially exposed if a hurricane ravages the region again.

Moves are underway at the United Nations that could provide debt relief to independent islands such as Grenada, St Lucia, and Antigua if they are again stricken.

Recent public and private conversations have taken place at the United Nations Financing for Development Forum (FfDForum) in New York. The group is currently considering provisions for automatic debt relief and payment moratoriums when a disaster hits, as well as mandated debt restructuring. After the FfDForum focused on the measure, LeCompte says the G7, G20, International Monetary Fund or UN could call for its adoption and the creation of a legally binding process. Once approved at this level it could become legally binding, he said.

LeCompte expects the provisions to move forward in the next few months, just as the hurricane season could be approaching its historically most volatile period in the fall.

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Eric LeCompte featured in video on Debt Relief during United Nations meetings

Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of Jubilee USA was recently featured in a video speaking on the Financing for Development meetings at the United Nations last week in New York with Reverend Osbert James. Read excerpt below and follow link to full video.

“Moving Forward on Debt and Debt Sustainability: With a special focus on the situation of Caribbean Countries”

On the sidelines of the 2018 FfD Forum, FES and partners have teamed up to present a luncheon and roundtable - with a special focus on the situation of Caribbean countries - to discuss sovereign debt & debt sustainability.

The 2018 FFD draft outcome document calls for movement toward a global consensus on guidelines for debtor and creditor responsibilities in borrowing by and lending to sovereigns, building on existing initiatives. UN Member States are requesting the Inter-agency Task Force – in its 2019 report – to carefully analyze these initiatives, as well as to advance the analysis of state-contingent debt instruments, GDP-linked bonds, insurance coverage and other innovative mechanisms, as a means of reducing risks to sovereign balance sheets, particularly in SIDS, LDCs, LLDCs and open economies more vulnerable to disasters.

To take meaningful steps toward a global consensus on sovereign debt sustainability ahead of next debt crisis, against which the IMF and Civil Society Organisations, are raising their warnings, it is imperative that stakeholders move quickly to identify 1) where there is already agreement (such as on causes, if not solutions to crises, on concerns regarding predatory behavior, on the need to improve restructuring procedures), 2) where there is possible agreement (such as on illicit financial flows, or on the need to turn external debt into an instrument of support in case of natural disasters), and 3) where there is a lack of agreement (such as the design of an improved debt restructuring regime).

On the sidelines of the 2018 Financing for Development Forum, the Permanent Mission of Antigua and Barbuda, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES), erlassjahr.de, and Jubilee USA have teamed up to present a luncheon and roundtable, which was held under Chatham House Rule, to discuss – with a special focus on the situations of Caribbean countries, who have suffered serious natural disasters in recent years –different views and perspectives on what is needed to move forward within the multilateral system on sovereign debt and debt sustainability. In addition to representatives from the co-organizers, the discussion was attended by representatives of UN Member States, as well as members of the secretariat of the FFD Office, UNCTAD and the IMF.

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Eric LeCompte Quoted in Devex on UN Financing Forum

Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of Jubilee USA was recently featured in Devex speaking on the Financing for Development meetings at the United Nations last week in New York. Read excerpt below and follow link to full article.

UN financing forum sees focus on debt relief for vulnerable Caribbean nations

So far, there is no specific debt relief action plan for the Caribbean region, but it’s something to watch for at upcoming global summits, including the opening of the U.N. General Assembly in the fall, said Eric LeCompte, the executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Jubilee USA Network.

“We see a consensus emerging about the need for a debt relief process for Caribbean islands to protect them from hurricanes and other natural disasters,” LeCompte said. “What people are really talking about now, is how do we have a permanent process in place that looks to structure and relieve debt after a crisis occurs?”

“There is momentum with the hurricane season, trying to get anything in place,” LeCompte explained. “I’ve been doing this for a long time and I have never seen a moment where global decision makers are taking the situation as seriously as they are now. The seriousness is incredibly significant. If Jamaica gets hit by a Category Five, what does that do to the entire region?”

Read more here

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Reactions to the 2018 UN Forum on Financing for Development

Members and experts from the Civil Society Financing for Development Group release statements at the conclusion of the 2018 Financing for Development Forum.

Commenting on forum discussions around debt relief processes for Caribbean and small islands, Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of Jubilee USA, said:

"During the Financing for Development Forum we saw growing concern about protecting small developing islands before the next hurricane season. There is growing consensus to put in place permanent debt relief processes to protect small islands when they are hit by natural disasters. We must all act quickly as the next hurricane season begins in weeks."

Lidy Nacpil, Coordinator of the Jubilee South Asia Pacific Movement on Debt and Development, stated:

"We welcome the attention that the UN FfD is giving to climate finance.  Development and climate are inextricably linked. But we are concerned that climate finance is not lumped together with official development assistance. Climate finance is not 'aid,' it is an obligation of rich countries to developing countries and must be additional to ODA."

Tove Maria Ryding, Tax Coordinator at the European Network on Debt and Development (Eurodad), added:

"After global tax scandals such as the Paradise Papers, it’s become very evident that our global tax system is deeply flawed and full of loopholes, and we know that illicit financial flows is costing developing countries billions of dollars every year. At the Financing for Development Forum, the developing countries called for an intergovernmental UN negotiation to solve these issues, but the rich countries are still dragging their feet on this point. One is left wondering how many international tax scandals it will take, before the rich countries are ready to come to the table and negotiate global solutions to this global problem."

The Civil Society FfD Group is an open mechanism for civil society organizations and networks to engage collectively, build synergy and speak with one voice in the formal UN FfD process and all its related and interconnected spaces.

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Eric LeCompte Quoted in ValueWalk on Rising Global Debt

Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of Jubilee USA was recently featured in ValueWalk speaking on global debt following the Spring International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings in Washington, D.C. and the Financing for Development meetings at the United Nations last week in New York. Read excerpt below and follow link to full article.

At UN Meetings, Global Leaders Raise “Undiplomatic” Concerns Regarding Debt

By: Mark Melin

For the past ten years, the global economy has been growing and on a sustainable path, the IMF has reported in typically polite and diplomatic language. But the warnings contained in recent reports have been the focus of concerned global leaders attending UN meetings in New York this week, said Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of Jubliee USA and a UN consultant on sovereign debt.

LeCompte, attending the UN meetings, said that discussions were “less diplomatic” than normal as concerns were raised that a debt crisis could materialize if steps are not taken to avert the problem.

Looking at the emerging world economy, sovereign debt has reached levels where it is becoming non-productive. In areas such as Africa, for instance, debt to GDP levels is reaching 55%, up from 30%. “When debt in the developing world reaches 55%, the increased debt is used to make interest payments and does not go directly into the Economy,” LeCompte notes.

As the IMF looks at the financial landscape, it sees debt levels moving to unsustainable levels and speculative financial behavior, led by the roll-back of Dodd-Frank legislation, creating a toxic brew. “This is the formula that ushered in the 2008 financial crisis,” LeCompte said, noting his surprise that the IMF would be considering a universal basic income at the same time they are expressing serious concern over debt levels. He said concerns over rising populism, particularly if there is an economic downturn, are driving the IMF to get ahead of the issues.

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UN Forum Wrestles with Economic Policies 10 Years After Financial Crisis

Islands Call for Debt Relief Ahead of Next Hurricane Season

Officials from governments, the IMF, World Bank, the private sector and NGOs meet this week at the United Nations for the Financing for Development (FFD) Forum. The annual gathering seeks to implement the Addis Ababa Action Agenda that governments endorsed in 2015 in Ethiopia. 

"These meetings are critical to address the root causes of poverty and raise revenue in the developing world," said Jubilee USA Executive Director Eric LeCompte. LeCompte has participated in FFD negotiations since 2012. "Better policies on tax, debt, trade and transparency issues are critical for lifting people out of poverty."

During the forum, public statements and private negotiations focus on new debt relief processes for Caribbean and small islands ahead of the next hurricane season. Islands from Dominica to Barbuda are still recovering from the 2017 hurricane season.

"There is growing consensus among a number of decision making bodies to put in place permanent debt relief processes to protect small islands when they are hit by natural disasters," noted Eric LeCompte who supported similar processes at the IMF. "We must all act quickly as the next hurricane season begins in just a few weeks."

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