International Trade


Adopted by the CCAR


Adopted by the Board of Trustees
Central Conference of American

March 30, 2003


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 through the process known as “harmonization,” in 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. There is a

tremendous difference in negotiating power between developed and

developing nations. Most directly, developed countries can afford to

dedicate hundreds of experts to negotiations while developing nations

can only afford to send one or two negotiators.

The WTO’s 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.

Intellectual property rights agreements made by the

WTO have taken on critical importance in the battle against the global

AIDS pandemic and other epidemics. Decisions made by WTO ministers

will have life and death consequences for the more than 38 million

living people infected with the HIV virus living in the developing

world. Currently, less than 1% of these victims have access to the

anti-retroviral treatments necessary for survival once a patient has

contracted full-blown AIDS. However, even when the corporations that

hold the patents on these drugs reduce their royalties, neither the

victims nor their governments can afford the cost of full treatment.

An exception to the WTO negotiated Trade-Related Aspects of

Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) agreement that would allow poor

nations to produce or purchase generic versions of these desperately

needed drugs is a critical component of a coordinated response to the

AIDS crisis and other epidemics plaguing the developing world.

Comprehensive debt relief is another necessary

component of the global response to the AIDS virus. Countries saddled

with crippling debt payments cannot afford to devote sufficient funds

to critical needs such as health care, education, and infrastructure

development. For the world’s citizens to have a chance to survive

this pandemic, everyone must have access to medical care, both

preventative and therapeutic, education, clean drinking water, and

sufficient food. Only with a commitment by lending nations and

international financial institutions, such as the IMF and World Bank,

to deeper and broader debt cancellation can poor nations realistically

hope to provide for their citizens.

Our tradition

teaches that from the time of Creation, human beings are enjoined 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 Central Conference of American Rabbis

resolves to:

Support free

trade, provided the following principles are upheld in international


Trade and

investment relationships must assiduously protect and promote the

dignity of all people, ensure the development and well-being of people

in all nations with special concern for the more than one billion

people living in poverty, secure the earth’s natural environment in

all its bounty and diversity for present and future generations, and

that facilitate food security and affordable access to necessary


Trade and

investment policies and decisions must be transparent, involve the

participation of all stakeholders, empower the most vulnerable, raise

and maintain international standards rather than lower them, and

reflect the realities of the needs of local populations;

Trade and investment systems must

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

Trade and investment practices must take into account the

well-being of workers through means such as job safety, fair and

humane working conditions, and sustainable wages;

Call on the governments of the United States

and Canada to assume leadership roles by entering into international

agreements that promote democracy, strong environmental, labor, and

human rights standards, and by ensuring that these agreements result

from a process in which all parties have access to comparable

negotiating resources;


on the governments of the United States and Canada to work with other

lending nations and international financial institutions (such as the

International Monetary Fund and the World Bank) to cancel the debt

crippling the world’s most impoverished nations so as to allow these

nations to direct sufficient funds to the critical areas of health

care, education, and infrastructure development, and especially to

provide preventative measures, care, and treatment in the battle

against the global AIDS pandemic.

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;

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;

Participate in interreligious

dialogue on international trade and investment;

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.

A state which would be committed to peaceful co-

existence with the State of Israel — we reject the Palestinian demand

for a right of physical return to the State of Israel which would

create in effect two Palestinian states.