Friday, July 22, 2005

CAFTA vote draws near...

**The CAFTA vote in the house has been tentatively scheduled for Wednesday, July 27**

Wednesday, Republican House leaders tentatively scheduled a vote on the Central American-Dominican Republic-United States Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA) for Wednesday, July 27. It passed the Senate on June 30th.

CAFTA is the extension of the failed model of NAFTA to five countries of Central America and the Dominican Republic. Its most devastating impact would be felt by 6 million farmers in Central America, who have seen over 1.5 million Mexican farmers lose their livelihoods due to the influx of cheap, subsidized imports from the US.

Under “fast-track” trade promotion authority, the U.S. Congress can only approve or reject—not amend—trade agreements. DR-CAFTA supporters estimate that an additional 25 to 40 supporters in the House of Representatives are needed to ensure DR-CAFTA will pass. Supporters of DR-CAFTA include the Business Coalition for U.S.–Central American Trade, which represents an array of corporate interests from high-tech to agribusiness.

Opposition to the agreement comes from grassroots groups focusing on agriculture, workers’ and consumers’ rights, the environment, and even traditional supporters of free trade such as the U.S. sugar lobby. The diversity among DR-CAFTA’s opponents reveals how many people face significant hardship if the agreement is ratified.

The threat DR-CAFTA poses to the 5.5 million Central Americans who earn their livelihood in agriculture goes beyond U.S. dumping of highly subsidized agricultural goods: under the agreement Central American countries would be required to adopt U.S. patent rules, including patents on plants, that would remove farmers’ traditional right to save seed and pave the way for biotech corporations to sue small farmers if the farmers’ seed is contaminated with biotech products.

DR-CAFTA also includes

  • an even stronger version of NAFTA’s “Chapter 11” foreign investor protections, allowing corporations to sue for future lost profits.
  • Its procurement policy removes the right of municipal and city governments to use selective buying, such as giving preference to locally produced, recycled, or environmentally friendly goods.
  • Changes to the U.S. sugar program under DR-CAFTA will turn sugar into a dumped commodity on international markets, and would lead to a price drop for sugar farmers in over 41 countries—a deadly blow to some of the world’s poorest countries, who aren’t even party to the agreement.
  • It would open the door to privatization of public services such as water and education by allowing corporations to bid for contracts for publicly funded services
  • It only binds countries to existing labor laws, many of which are below ILO standards. It also overrides labor protections attached to current trade agreements.

(from Food First; for more info, please see "It's Time to Defeat CAFTA," at food first's website)

Now, get involved and call your Representative!

Use the toll free number 1-866-340-9281 to the Congressional Operator, and ask for your rep. Tell them that you are a constituent, and that you urge them to vote against CAFTA.

Some talking points, from

* I urge you to vote against CAFTA because, like NAFTA, CAFTA will be a disaster for family farmers. NAFTA has pushed a million and a halffarmers in Mexico off their traditional land. Likewise, more than six million Central American farmers fear that they will be pushed off theirs, tearing apart rural families. Meanwhile 38,000 family farmers in the US have lost their land because of NAFTA as well. The so-called "sugar deal" does nothing to address the devastating implications of CAFTA for tens of thousands of workers in the US sugar industry.

*I urge you to vote against CAFTA because it's modeled on NAFTA. NAFTA has cost the US a million manufacturing jobs, and spread sweatshops across Mexico. CAFTA is more of the same ­ bad for workers, and it's only great for big corporations. Please vote against CAFTA!

* I urge you to vote against CAFTA because the corporate patent monopolies in CAFTA will make life-saving medicines outrageously ­ and prohibitively - expensive. CAFTA is a death sentence for 275,000 people withHIV/AIDS in Central America.

* I urge you to vote no on CAFTA because, like NAFTA, it includes anti-democratic provisions that allows foreign corporations to sue local governments if health, safety, or environmental laws interfere with their desire to profit. Foreign corporations should not have more rights than local citizens! Vote no on CAFTA!


Blogger Fletch said...

The sugar lobby is opposing CAFTA, unlike other trade deals, because this one, for a change, will negatively impact them. Sugar imports are among the most restricted foods crossing into the U.S. market today. As a result, domestic sugar prices far exceed global sugar prices. This raises the price of everything from soda to bubblegum produced in the U.S. and acts as a regressive tax. These taxes flow into the coffars of sugar interests, keeping them on the land when they should be forced off of it by cheaper imports and buying the most connected lobbying talent inside the Beltway. Diversity notwithstanding, sugar interests are dominant in opposition to CAFTA.
On indigenous farmers south of the border, you're mostly right. Because of U.S. corn (maize) subsidies, Mexican farmers undoubtedly have been forced off the land. But don't confuse correlation with causation here. Most of this displacement would probably have occurred without NAFTA. A similar argument applies to CAFTA. My point: it's the rich-world ag. subsidies themselves, not FTAs, that are culpible.
Yeah, isn't that splendid... Corporations like Monsanto extracting profits from the seeds of some of the poorest people in the hemisphere. American ugly. I don't know much about IP rights and agriculture, but I believe, in the WTO at least, countries reserve the right to create lists of indigeous flora and fauna that can't be patently domestically. This is hardly a remedy since multinationals could still patent the species in another part of the world. What's more worrying is that public health has been almost totally ignored in CAFTA in favor of big Pharma.
A lot of the discussion on Chapter Eleven protections is very theoretical. Little case law has been generated, that I know of, since NAFTA's implementation. To suggest that sovereignty would be mortally damaged is to do a disservice to your argument. The record so far is clear: these agreements may appear to be ruinous superficially, but actually pose little threat to procurement and public ownership.
One last point before I go. NAFTA hasn't caused a million manufacturing jobs to disappear. You've picked this up from an economist named Robert Scott at EPI. His analysis was limited to counting NAFTA-TAA job figures and subtracting them from increased U.S. exports to Mexico. What he forgot to record in his report was lower prices for consumers in the U.S., or even higher corporate profits if you like, from Mexican imports. In short, he counted job losses from cheaper Mexican imports but not lower prices or higher profits which caused the job losses in the first place. And this is one of the leading reports on NAFTA circulating today.

10:14 PM  

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