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Getting Beyond the Myths of CAFTA, by Harley Shaiken

June 27, 2005

The debate over CAFTA is often framed as being one between the forces of free trade and the forces of protection. But that has little to do with the realities of CAFTA, a complex managed trade agreement that caters to the elites and would doom the workers of Central America to an unacceptable status quo.


By Harley Shaiken

Q. Which areas of the CAFTA agreement contain strong language and effective enforcement provisions – and which don’t?

Q.   What was our experience with NAFTA? And how might that inform our thoughts about CAFTA?

Q. No one is suggesting CAFTA should be perfect. But is it at least a step in the right direction? Or does this lock in an unacceptable status quo?

Q. What explains the rather remarkable contrast between the ratification (in some cases under unusual circumstances) of the agreement by Central American legislatures – and the broader popular opinion amongst Central Americans that tends to be very negative?

President Bush has submitted the Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement to Congress for ratification. If approved, it would extend NAFTA-like trading preferences to El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic. The House and Senate must vote within 90 legislative days of receiving the measure.

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Editor: George Richardson