Stop the Central American Free Trade Agreement!

Stop the Central American Free Trade Agreement!

Call, Write or Visit Your Representative and Senators In Their Home Offices!

Call To Action! May 24-31!

22 May 2004

Our Congressional representatives and Senators will be in their home districts from May 24 to 31. As U.S. citizens we need to hold our elected officials responsible and call on them to vote against the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). The U.S. Trade Representative and the trade ministers of the five Central American countries will officially sign the CAFTA on May 28 in Washington, DC. President Bush had officially notified the U.S. Congress under the Trade Promotion Authority law (AKA Fast Track) on February 20th of the administration’s intention to sign the agreement. This process could lead to a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate before Congress’ summer recess on July 23rd.

But, the momentum is on our side. Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill in recent weeks have acknowledged that right now they do not have the votes to pass CAFTA in the House of Representatives. We CAN defeat CAFTA if, in concert with our partners in Central America, we make the advocacy efforts to do so.

It is important to impress upon members of Congress the importance of speaking up against CAFTA now, if they are opposed to the trade agreement. It is possible that, if enough opposition is shown, the Bush administration will not introduce the enabling legislation before the November elections. A victory for us!

Top Ten Reasons To Oppose CAFTA!

1. CAFTA Expands a Proven Disaster
CAFTA would expand the failed NAFTA model of international trade to five new Central American countries with plans to include the Dominican Republic already under way. But ten years of NAFTA have shown just how devastating these agreements can be for working families and the environment. In the United States over 766,000 jobs have been lost due to NAFTA. In the maquiladora zones along the US-Mexico border wages are low, union organizing is suppressed, and industrial pollution has dramatically increased cases of hepatitis and birth defects among workers. NAFTA should be repealed, not expanded.

2. CAFTA Contains No Protection for Workers and the Environment
CAFTA contains no meaningfully enforceable standards that might prevent countries from lowering their public health, workplace safety, and environmental laws in order to attract investment. NAFTA has already contributed to a ’race to the bottom’ in wages and environmental protection as companies pit desperate workers in each country against each other. Trade agreements are presented to the public as a vehicle for economic development, but when these agreements fail to condition trade access on enforcement of international labor and environmental standards, only corporate CEOs see the benefits. Free trade is clearly no model for sustainable development.

3. CAFTA Promotes Sweatshop Labor
CAFTA does not require countries to live up to standards set by the International Labor Organization. Instead, it would require only that countries enforce existing domestic labor laws, regardless of how inadequate these laws may be. In the context of Central America, where laws fall far below international standards and governments are often actively hostile towards unions, this model amounts to nothing less than a recipe for rampant labor violations. CAFTA will no doubt lead to an expansion of the region¹s maquila industry, already one of the world’s most developed.

4. CAFTA Drives Family Farmers Off the Land
Thousands of small family farms in both the US and Central America will be lost because of CAFTA, much like what has already happened to their Mexican, American, and Canadian counterparts under NAFTA. Meanwhile, giant corporate farms companies like ADM and Cargill will be the ones benefiting most from their downfall and the trade agreement. CAFTA would likely force a massive migration of erstwhile farmers to large urban areas to work in the maquila industry, or to risk the dangerous journey to the US.

5. CAFTA Privatizes Public Services
CAFTA investor rules will make it impossible for governments in Central America and the US to give preferences to public providers for services. Under CAFTA, domestic regulations protecting people’s right to food, education, health, and basic utilities could be considered ’barriers to trade’ and open to challenges by multinational corporations. CAFTA would require that governments bid out for services contracts, resulting in price increases, reduced access, and compromised quality that would most severely impact the vulnerable in our society, including the poor, children, and the elderly.

6. CAFTA Expands Corporate Power
CAFTA would expand NAFTA rules that allow companies to sue governments over any law that might stand in the way of their ability to profit. These rules have already been used 27 times since 1994 to challenge some of our most cherished public health, workplace safety and environmental laws. The threat of being sued forces governments to either pay large fines or to pass only pro-business legislation.

7. CAFTA Undermines Public Health
CAFTA’s provisions to protect and expand the patent monopolies of US pharmaceutical companies in Central America will undermine access to affordable generic AIDS drugs and increase the price of medicines. Meanwhile, hundreds thousands of HIV-positive Central Americans are in immediate need of treatment or else they will die. Of the six Latin American countries with the highest prevalence of HIV, four are Central American, according to the World Bank.

8. CAFTA is a Stepping Stone to FTAA
Passing CAFTA would be a strategic first step towards the larger, Free Trade Area of the Americas, which would include every country in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean except Cuba. Talks on the FTAA have collapsed in recent months following sustained pressure from the governments of Brazil, Venezuela, and other South American and Caribbean countries. By bullying its smaller CAFTA trading partners into accepting dangerous rules on services, while altogether excluding the issue of agriculture, the Bush Administration hopes to divide the growing coalition of developing countries that oppose it and set a dangerous precedent for its position on FTAA.

9. Opposition is Building
Thousands have been organizing to defeat CAFTA throughout Central America and the US, with mass mobilizations in Managua, San Salvador, and San Jose and pickets at the negotiations in Cincinnati, Houston, New Orleans, and Washington DC. Following on the heels of victories for civil society at the WTO talks in Cancun and the FTAA talks in Miami, the defeat of CAFTA could set back the already reeling FTAA process, perhaps for good.

10. We Can Win!
Despite tremendous popular opposition to CAFTA in Central America, it seems clear that most effective way to defeat the agreement will be in the US Congress. Members of Congress have been hearing a lot from their constituents about the negative impacts of free trade. Now more than ever it’s important that you tell your congressperson to say no to CAFTA and yes to Fair Trade!

This flyer was prepared by the Campaign for Labor Rights with information from the Stop CAFTA Coalition of which CLR is a member. Visit www.stopcafta.org to download lobbying and organizing materials. Be sure to clic on the new flash film "CAFTA-the Trojan Calf!"

Campaign for Labor Rights
Grassroots Mobilizing Department of the U.S. Anti-Sweatshop Movement
1247 E St., SE, Washington, DC 20003
(1-202) 544-9355, clr@clrlabor.org

© 2004 Campaign for Labor Rights