WASHINGTON - July 27 - One year after the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) narrowly passed in the U.S. House of Representatives, the agreement has failed to live up to its supporters’ claims. Dissatisfied with ongoing failures in U.S. trade policy, a wide coalition of groups has written a Pledge for Trade Justice to show that an alternative trade model is possible. Grassroots activists across the country are now demanding candidates for upcoming November elections promise to uphold the Pledge if elected to office. The text of the Pledge can be found at www.stopcafta.org and a more detailed background can be downloaded at: http://www.cispes.org/cafta/Pledge_background_final.doc.
Last week the House of Representatives ratified the Oman Free Trade Agreement (OFTA) by a surprisingly close margin of 221-205. “OFTA maintains many of CAFTA’s shortcomings, and adds a few more setbacks for workers rights. The tight vote in Congress shows that CAFTA opposition was not a fluke, but also that about half of the House is still refusing to let go of policies that have been proven failures.” said Jim Mays of the New York City People’s Referendum on Free Trade.
"CAFTA promised to strengthen Central American economies through increased exports, but as the first country to implement CAFTA with the U.S., El Salvador has been rewarded with a decrease in its exports and increased government crack-downs on peaceful demonstrations," said Tara Carr-Lemke from the SHARE Foundation.
House leadership had to break internal rules to pass CAFTA last year, holding the vote open for an extra hour. Even with numerous backroom threats and promises, the agreement barely passed 217-215, the closest trade vote in recent history.
“One year later and the economic miracles have failed to materialize. It is hardly surprising, since only a handful of wealthy interests had been behind this agreement from the start, and pushed it through despite the opposition of the vast majority of Central Americans,” said Katherine Hoyt of the Nicaragua Network.
Of the original signing countries, CAFTA is now in effect in trade between the United States and El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala. The Dominican Republic has ratified the agreement but Washington has held off on implementing the agreement in a bid to increase protections for large pharmaceutical companies from generic competition. Costa Rica signed the agreement but has yet to ratify it.
“CAFTA is forcing both the workers of Central America and the United States to suffer. Together we will continue to struggle for a more just hemisphere” said Burke Stansbury of the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES).
“A year ago we pledged to continue to resist this trade agreement with our sisters and brothers in Central America. We are renewing that pledge, and continuing to envision relations based on people over profit” added Andrew de Sousa of the Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala.