The passage of the Central American Free Trade Agreement was a loss for the environment and public health, for workers' rights and, in the end, for our democracy. CAFTA, which passed the House of Representatives last night by a mere two votes, could not pass on the merits -- and it didn't. The vote-trading, deal-making and arm-twisting went on well beyond the customary time for a vote to close, to allow Bush administration proponents to eke out a victory, 217 to 215.
CAFTA threatens our ability as a nation to enforce and implement our own environmental laws within our own borders, and undermines the efforts of our partner countries in Central America in setting or improving environmental and public health standards. The result: an uneven playing field that will make it even more difficult for the U.S. to compete for jobs, and no incentives to protect the environment in Central America, one of the most environmentally-rich areas in the world.
In passing CAFTA, Congress demonstrated its willingness to set aside the United States' tradition of leadership as a force for environmental protection, democracy and human rights in exchange for a deal that will enrich only transnational corporations, while leaving the rest of us -- here and in Central America -- behind. It was an exercise in poor judgment and cynical self-interest by our leaders, and it will cost us dearly.
Martin Wagner, Earthjustice 510-550-6700