Wednesday, April 20, 2005
Opposing CAFTA and the FTAA
CAFTA and FTAA: regional integration, not free trade
The Greenville News
Tuesday, April 20, 2005
By Steven Yates
When the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into effect in the early 1990s we were told it would create jobs in America by opening up American markets to Mexican and Canadian goods as well as opening their markets to ours.
What happened was a mass exodus of jobs and portions of entire industries (textiles is an example) outside our borders for cheap labor. As plants closed and went to Mexico leaving thousands of Americans out of work, local businesses that depended on those workers' having money to spend also closed. Once thriving communities became veritable ghost towns. South Carolina was especially hard hit.
Today, the folks who brought us NAFTA are attempting to sell Congress on a new brainchild: the Central American Free Trade Agreement and Dominican Republic (CAFTA-DR), which is a stepping-stone to the granddaddy of them all, the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).
CAFTA-DR builds on NAFTA by incorporating Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic into a single trade bloc. In February of this year The AP reported that "CAFTA is the most significant multilateral pact for the United States since (NAFTA) more than a decade ago. It is seen as crucial to the greater goal of establishing a free trade zone for all the Western Hemisphere." According to CAFTA's own preamble, one of its purposes is to "contribute to hemispheric integration and provide an impetus toward establishing the Free Trade Area of the Americas."
The FTAA has been described as "NAFTA on steroids!" It would pull in the remainder of Central and South America into a single trade zone under a single supranational authority! According to a recent Congressional Quarterly, both houses are about to begin hearings on CAFTA. A vote could come as soon as May. It has the support of both major parties and politically well-connected multinational corporations who stand to profit handsomely from the continued outsourcing of jobs.
It is opposed by organizations such as the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) who rightly sense a disaster in the making. Among NASDA's objections is that CAFTA would grant the six foreign nations immediate access to U.S. markets, while U.S. producers would have to wait years for reciprocal access. In other words, argues leading CAFTA critic William Norman Grigg, CAFTA is a foreign aid bill disguised as a free trade agreement. It places Americans at an obvious disadvantage. The hemorrhaging of jobs that followed NAFTA would only be the beginning!
Also, CAFTA contains hundreds of pages of regulations which bespeak not of "free" trade but control over local economies leading to regional integration both economic and political. Those in charge would be unelected bureaucrats overseeing the supranational agencies the agreement created.
Indeed, it is doubtful that "free" trade is the desired result of CAFTA-DR or its intended successor, the FTAA. The text of these agreements suggests strongly that their real intent is to create an incipient mega-state, modeled on the European Union (EU). The EU was sold to Europeans as a "free trade zone." Today, the various nations' control over their own economic destinies is gone, their national currencies are gone and the nations themselves are losing their sovereignty.
In both the finalized CAFTA and the proposed FTAA texts, the parties that sign on to the agreements commit to meet obligations determined by United Nations agencies such as the World Trade Organization and the International Labour Organization — not the U.S. Congress as is clearly called for in our Constitution (Article I, Section 8).
While some may wish to think these legal documents will not be binding on a country as powerful as the United States, they should investigate beyond the Orwellian advertising employed in naming these schemes "free" trade agreements.
Please visit the official Web sites for CAFTA and the FTAA and study them for yourself. Then join with others in contacting our senators and representatives in Congress. Urge them to oppose these agreements.
Some may have seen large billboards around the area asking, "Have you lost your job to outsourcing — yet?" Or stating, "If NAFTA hasn't crushed you, the FTAA will." If these agreements become law, we can kiss more American jobs goodbye. But more importantly, we will also see the erosion of constitutional government and our nation's independence from unelected supranational authority.
Steven Yates, Ph.D., teaches philosophy at the University of South Carolina Upstate and the University of South Carolina Union, and is on the board of the South Carolina chapter of the Citizens Committee to Stop the FTAA. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.