PHILADELPHIA - July 28 - The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), an international social justice organization, denounces the passage of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) by the U.S. House of Representatives last night.
Mary Ellen McNish, AFSC general secretary, said this morning, The AFSC is deeply concerned about how this trade pact was passed.
With intense pressure from Republican leadership and back room deals, CAFTA was passed for political reasons rather than the merits of the agreement, she added.
Mary Lord, assistant general secretary for peace and conflict resolution, said today, Some of the poorest countries in the hemisphere are in Central America and our experience in Mexico leads us to believe that CAFTA is likely to accelerate inequality and exacerbate poverty in the region.
The passage of CAFTA is a clear message that some members of Congress are unaware of its potential consequences such as spurring poverty, job loss and workplace discrimination, she added.
CAFTA did not measure up to standards of responsible trade adopted by the AFSC Board of Directors, which felt it will harm the poor and vulnerable in both the United States and Central America.
According to the AFSC, CAFTA will:
- Threaten the livelihoods of millions of small farmers in Central America and the Dominican Republic because they cannot compete against highly subsidized U.S agribusiness;
- Restrict the ability of poor countries to provide generic medicine to deal with public health emergencies like AIDS and malaria;
- Extend the rights of foreign businesses to sue for monetary damages when environmental and public health laws chip away at their profitability; and
- Provide greater room for manufacturers to move their factories without protecting the fundamental rights of workers.
Jessica Walker Beaumont, AFSC trade and debt specialist, remarked, Although the vote was lost, the debate was won.
For CAFTA to only pass by a two-vote margin, despite intense pressure of the Bush Administration, represents a huge shift in Congress.
An unprecedented grassroots effort led by people of faith helped raise the ethical and moral arguments against the CAFTA, which is a trade model that benefits the wealthy at the expense of the poor and vulnerable, she added.
For more information on AFSCs position on CAFTA visit www.afsc.org/trade-matters.