Tonight the presidential candidates debated domestic issues. Given the global financial crisis that has led to devastating losses in the U.S. and has roiled markets around the world, a great deal of the discussion focused on the national economy.

Yet, Senators Obama and McCain both mentioned trade agreements as an avenue for job creation and for jump-starting the economy. Senator Obama took issue with the poorly enforced labor and environmental regulations in some trade pacts while Senator McCain argued for ratification of the Colombia free trade agreement despite human rights violations in the country.

Despite the promise of international trade to “lift all boats” and benefit the poor; in reality, it is the working poor—both in the U.S. and around the world—who have been stranded by trade agreements. In the U.S., trade agreements have meant the loss of well-paid jobs for manufacturing and service workers. The jobs that are available to displaced workers in the U.S. tend to pay less with worse conditions.

In other countries, although workers may gain jobs as the result of trade agreements, often these jobs do not pay enough or provide opportunities to advance to lift families out of poverty. And the workers, the majority of whom are women, try to save what little they have left to invest in better food for their children, better health care, or another year of school.

On Friday I will take AID’s $2 A Day Challenge. As a single mother I will be with my son who is off of school that day. Trying to explain to him that we can’t afford to buy fruit snacks that day is going to be painful. Cooking for him and going without food myself (as women do throughout the world) will pain us both. As I spend Friday doing without, I will think of the women and men working so hard here and around the world who do this everyday. And I know that we need to do better by and for all of them. One thing we can do is promote fair trade—by giving consumers a choice of products we can ensure that farmers and workers earn a living wage for their efforts rather than poverty wages.

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