Obama urged to suspend CAFTA

Members of the Stop CAFTA Coalition, along with allies in Central America and the Dominican Republic, have compiled a report that describes the trends and impacts of the first three years of the U.S.-Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA). The report, titled “DR-CAFTA: Effects and Alternatives” is the third in a series of reports by the Stop CAFTA Coalition; the first was published in September 2006 and the second in September 2007.

“We believe that the results of CAFTA demonstrate the failure of ‘free’ trade and justify a definitive split with this model by the incoming Obama Administration,” said Burke Stansbury of the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES), a member of the coalition. “Not only should the Democratic Congress reject pending agreements such as the Colombia Free Trade Agreement, but the party in power should take this opportunity to introduce a new trade policy based on human rights, and economic, social and environmental sustainability.”

According to Elliott Jones at the Guatemala Human Rights Commission, an editor of the report, “The articles included in the report show that the negative impacts of CAFTA in these countries are not simply ‘growing pains,’ or the inevitable transitional problems associated with altering a country’s economic system; they are fundamental flaws in the economic theory that drives CAFTA and will likely not improve.”

The agreement is still new in many of the signatory countries, but certain trends which have emerged throughout the monitoring process have either continued or been exacerbated. Patterns of growing inequality and ongoing poverty within the signatory countries have only become more extreme, contrary to the promises of supporters of the agreement. According to Katherine Hoyt of the Nicaragua Network, “unless there is a significant shift in the economic model, employment opportunities will continue to be scarce, agricultural prices will continue to fall, the poor will become poorer, and immigration will increase.”

The report also illuminates other trade agreements, either proposed or already in effect that relate to Central America and provide possible alternatives to CAFTA’s model. ALBA is a cooperative trade agreement that focuses on development and mutually beneficial policies, eschewing the false promises of neoliberalism. The Association Agreement with the European Union shows less promise, but allows for a semblance of cooperation among the Central American countries it affects, and includes clauses relating to cooperation and sustainability, which are missing entirely from CAFTA.

The report concludes with a “Pledge for Trade Justice” developed by the coalition which calls for, among other things: democratic participation and transparency during trade negotiations; provisions that work to protect the dignified lives of small farmers, indigenous communities, and women; strengthened core labor and environmental standards; provisions permitting debt cancellation; and a guarantee that public services like health care, education and potable water will remain public and accessible to poor communities.

According to Jennifer DeLury Ciplet of the Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA), “The coalition will work with our partners in Central America to continue challenging privatization, mega-projects, and other devastating policies associated with CAFTA, with the hope of ultimately pushing the Obama Administration to suspend this failed agreement and bring about an alternative.”

Via Upside Down World, Dec. 8

See our last posts on Central America, CAFTA and Barack Obama.