It has been one year since the US and Central American governments signed the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).
But due to public opposition from activists throughout the Americas, the Bush Administration and Congressional leadership have been unable to bring it to a vote.
The Bush Administration has stepped up their campaign to get CAFTA passed, and the latest word is that the US House and Senate will try to bring it to a vote before the July 4th recess.
Increased trade has the potential to reduce poverty and encourage development. But CAFTA is the wrong approach. Here's the problem: Free trade agreements like CAFTA assume a level playing field among countries. But in reality, these trade agreements often exacerbate inequality through unfair trade rules and double standards, thus keeping people in poverty. In fact, implementation of NAFTA has actually increased poverty among small farmers in Mexico. And Oxfam's analysis shows that CAFTA is likely to create more poverty in Central America - especially among poor farmers.
Please email your Representative and Senators today. Urge him or her to vote NO on CAFTA and make their position public. [Your name will also be added to the growing Oxfam petition to Make Trade Fair.]
UPDATE: July 1, 2005
Late Thursday night the Senate narrowly approved CAFTA - voting 54-45 in favor of the agreement. In the end 12 GOP senators broke ranks to vote no. The House is to consider the pact soon. Read More.
I have serious concerns about the effects that the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) could have on some of the poorest people in this hemisphere. I believe that as long as rules are fair, trade can be beneficial to communities by helping promote growth and reduce poverty. But I think the rules in CAFTA will worsen poverty and inequality in Central America. I urge you to vote NO on CAFTA.
Significant portions of Central America's populations -- the majority of whom live in poverty -- depend heavily on agriculture for their livelihoods, but if CAFTA is passed, small farmers in Central America will be unable to compete with US-subsidized agriculture that is dumped on their markets. Many poor Central Americans are ravaged by curable diseases, but CAFTA will limit access to affordable medicines by restricting competition to brand-name pharmaceuticals by generics companies. Central American countries are sorely lacking in public infrastructure, and some are highly indebted, but CAFTA will prohibit these governments from ensuring that foreign investment serves national development goals.
I am not opposed to expanded trade. But a US trade agreement with Central America should take into account the disparities in development and resources between the US and the region, and should allow countries the policy flexibility to place the basic needs of their citizens above those of foreign investors and US agribusiness. CAFTA fails to do this. When CAFTA comes to Congress for a vote, I urge you to vote no.