martes, junio 28, 2005

CAFTA - The Central American Free Trade Agreement

Food First

The Central American Free Trade Agreement, CAFTA, is a proposed trade agreement between the U.S. government and five Central American countries: Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. CAFTA has been met by mass protests in Central America, and the Bush administration is having trouble garnering even Republican votes in the US Congress. Ratifying CAFTA promises to be a highly symbolic legislative struggle, with the potential to significantly stall the free trade agenda. Citizen pressure is working and needs to continue! Tell your Representative to publicly oppose CAFTA: see the action steps below.

The CAFTA agreement is based on the North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA, which is almost ten years old. Like NAFTA, CAFTA’s agreement on investment gives corporations the right to sue governments if their right to profit is restricted in any way. [1] CAFTA fundamentally undermines democracy by allowing corporations to sue state and local governments for implementing the public health, labor, and environmental protections mandated by voters.

Farmers in Central America are vehemently opposed to CAFTA. They recognize that they stand little chance of being able to compete against the massively subsidized US agribusiness machine. The 2002 US Farm Bill apportioned $180bn in new subsidies for the industry over ten years. By comparison, the total GDP for all five countries last year was a little under $140bn. In Mexico, similar policies under NAFTA have contributed to wide-spread rural poverty by driving down the prices that Mexican farmers earn from growing corn, their ancestral food. Farmers in United States ranging from advocates of sustainable agriculture to conventional sugar beet growers have joined their colleagues to the south in voicing concerns over CAFTA as well.

We can look to the history of NAFTA to assess the likely impacts of CAFTA. Over the past ten years, this deal between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico has had the following effects:

  • From 1994 to 2000, the United States experienced a net loss of 3.2 million jobs due to trade.[2]
  • Even accounting for increased employment in maquiladoras, more than 1 million jobs were lost in Mexico.[3]
  • Agricultural poverty in Mexico has increased from 54% before NAFTA to 68% after NAFTA.[4] Farmers have been pushed to the wall, and the biggest Mexican peasant protest since 1930 was organized in January 2003, involving 200,000 campesinos, under the slogan "El campo no aguanta mas" (The countryside can't take it any more).[5]
  • U.S. genetically modified crops imported without restriction into the Mexican market have contaminated local crops and reduced yields.[6]
  • As a result of the catastrophic consequences of NAFTA on Mexican agriculture,[10] Mexico is becoming increasingly dependent on imports from the U.S.[7]

Urgent Action: Stop CAFTA Before the 4th of July

Now is the time to declare independence from corporate trade agreements! George Bush is asking Congress to vote on the Central American Free Trade Agreement before the 4th of July. It is absolutely urgent to call your congressional representative today to tell them to oppose CAFTA.

Please call 1-866-340-9281, a toll-free number sponsored by the United Steelworkers of America, and urge Congress to vote NO on CAFTA!

CAFTA, the Central American Free Trade Agreement that will include Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic, endangers labor and environmental standards and will exacerbate poverty at home and abroad.

U.S. corporations stand to profit extraordinarily from this unpopular agreement which may be why the public knows so little about it. CAFTA signs away sovereign democratic rights, tramples hard-fought environmental and labor protections, privatizes public resources, holds governments hostage to frivolous corporate lawsuits and further marginalizes working families in Central America and the United States.

On Thursday, June 23rd George Bush sent the implementing legislation for CAFTA to the US Congress, signaling that it would be scheduled for a vote before the July weeklong Congressional recess, which starts Monday July 4th. CAFTA could be voted on as soon as Thursday, June 30th.

Don't let the bad policies of NAFTA get repeated with CAFTA. Declare independence from corporate trade agreements by telling your congressional representative why CAFTA is bad for working families, bad for the environment, and bad for democracy. Go ahead, get on the phone! 1-866-340-9281

For more information on CAFTA, read Food First's CAFTA fact sheet and our News and Views article It's Time to Defeat CAFTA.

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