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Willisms

« Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 10. | WILLisms.com | Carnival of the Optimists. »

On The Importance Of CAFTA-DR.

caftaflags.gif

The most important American free trade agreement in a decade, CAFTA (or, CAFTA-DR, or DR-CAFTA-- whichever name you prefer), today faces potential suffocation at the hands of short-sighted members of Congress. A protectionist zeitgeist sweeping the U.S. Congress today could undermine America's commitment to the advance of free markets around the world. CAFTA's defeat would be a major setback for President Bush's freedom agenda in the Western Hemisphere; Democrats, beholden to big labor, are nearly unanimously against it, as some Republicans are getting squishy.

James G. Poulos, in The American Spectator, explains that CAFTA is imperative for U.S. national security:

CAFTA CAN'T BE SOLD on the TV interview circuit as the spearhead of a multilayered intelligent American design meant to permanently guide the Western Hemisphere toward the expression of U.S. objectives. Even today we are inclined to blanch at the idea that free trade agreements should be passed into law in order to accomplish things that have nothing to do with economics. But the Bush administration believes, at home and abroad, that everything has to do with economics. Zoellick: "Free markets, development, opportunity, and hope are the best weapons against poverty, disease, and tyranny." Bush: "By transforming our hemisphere into a powerful free trade area, we will promote democratic governance, human rights, and economic liberty for everyone."

Specifically, China is making a play for Latin America. On a recent trip to Belize, China's influence was unmistakable. Bridges and other infrastructure proudly brandished plaques indicating that the folks back in Beijing were responsible for picking up the tab. Observing such overt and tangible Chinese influence in America's backyward is unsettling, to say the least.

More on the China connection:

China is now Brazil's third-largest trading partner, and Argentina's fourth-largest. China is negotiating a free trade agreement with Chile....

The course of American foreign policy and grand strategy within the ambit of the Monroe Doctrine is something that would be determined, in a perfect world, without having to package it all under the half-ingenuous auspices of a simple free trade agreement. But the difference between CAFTA and NAFTA is not just a matter of years. America's geostrategic play for Latin America as well as the Middle East not only creates barriers to the expansion of Chinese economic influence, but it controls -- one can hope -- the vast arc of disorder reaching from Cali to Kinshasa to Tikrit to Tashkent.

You can learn a lot about a piece of legislation, treaty, nominee, or other Congressional action by observing where key groups stand. The isolationist far right and the socialist far left are unified against CAFTA. Meanwhile, the moderate Democratic Leadership Conference (DLC), along with the National Association of Manufacturers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Florida Citrus Mutual, the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, and other mainstream groups on both sides of the partisan aisle, are all for CAFTA.

Some background on the CAFTA-DR countries:

Costa Rica-
costaricacafta.gif

Dominican Republic-

dominicanrepubliccafta.gif

El Salvador-
elsalvadorcafta.gif

Guatemala-
guatemalacafta.gif

Honduras-
hondurascafta.gif

Nicaragua-
nicaraguacafta.gif

National Review addresses the criticisms of CAFTA, noting that the assertion that it will kill America's sugar industry is overblown:

CAFTA is, in fact, embarrassingly deferential to the sugar lobby. It would increase sugar imports by only one percent in its first year. After 15 years, that number would rise to a staggering 1.4 percent. Incredibly, even these increases are too much for U.S. sugar producers, with whom the president is under no obligation to remain gentlemanly, and who might attenuate their opposition if Bush, taking up a suggestion from the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, threatened to use his executive authority to raise sugar imports by 10 percent if CAFTA is defeated.

Ultimately, though, CAFTA, less an economic treaty than a geopolitical strategy, is a cheap way (from America's perspective) to promote democracy in Central America:

A prosperous Central America will be a Central America whose people are less inclined to cross U.S. borders illegally or participate in the trafficking of narcotics. More important, by bringing greater prosperity and openness to the region, CAFTA will strengthen democracy. The 1983 Caribbean Basin Initiative — which essentially created the Central American textile industry and, with it, a middle class — helped undermine the dictators and Communist revolutionaries who for decades had kept the region poor, violent, and miserable. But the triumph of Central American democracy is not irreversible. Daniel Ortega remains a powerful force in Nicaragua, and, throughout Latin America, the anti-democratic, anti-American message of Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez gains ever-wider currency. For the U.S. to reject CAFTA would only strengthen the hand of would-be despots.

CAFTA, for our allies in the region, means the world. Americans of Central American and Dominican descent will remember opposition to CAFTA when they head to the polls. If Democrats want to be the party of no, let them. But Republicans should not fall into the protectionist trap on this issue. Free trade is a winner at the polls. CAFTA is good politics, and it's good policy.

We should not turn our back on America's progress on free trade. Let's pass CAFTA.

UPDATE:

A great debunking of myths on CAFTA.

Posted by Will Franklin · 15 June 2005 04:14 PM

Comments

Wow, what a great post - I think the longer CAFTA sits idle, Bush's legacy as a free-trader will continue to wither and die. Bill Clinton passed NAFTA which, if it were put up to a vote with this President and Congress, would not stand a snowball's chance in Hell of passing. I have more thoughts here:

http://www.briandavidcrane.com/index.php/weblog/comments/patriot_act/

Posted by: Brian at June 20, 2005 12:30 PM

Free Trade is not trade. Historically trade was based on trading products. Today it is primarily based on moving production and even making it portable ready to move again if one locality starts making waves about human dignity in the workday.
There is over a ten year history of failures related to NAFTA, GATT and the WTO. Why do the freetraders want to extend this free trade trap to more and more countries with CAFTA. The only thing that worked in the past was value added local economies in given geopolitical settings that are in sync with the services any nation had compiled over the years.
If local value added economies are chopped up into pieces sending parts here and there, the balance of any given society is affected. The tax base is upended too. For example, Bush's tax cuts did not heat up the economy because any extra money that came into play went to the retail level first and then flushed out of our economy with the money going to the places where the products are made. It did not stay here to add value down the line back to the raw product level.
Free Trade is primarily based on a new kind of slave trade down the lowest common denominators of wage slaves and even child labor. In the USA, a vast Middle Class has been destroyed and replaced by a Working Poor Class that are finding it more and more difficult to even buy the cheaper imports. Meanwhile, the destitute workers abroad can not even afford to buy the very things they make let alone have anything left over to buy anything the USA may have left to sell.
See American Dream is Burning artwork by Ray Tapajna and newspaper story at http://tapsnewstory.filetap.com or see http://arklineart.fotopages.com http://pages.zdnet.com/arklineart/tapin http://www.graphicsforums.com/public/list.asp?id=1247 ( The Clinton Years, The American Dream Reversed art ranks high - It was Clinton and a Democrat controlled Congress that passed both NAFTA and GATT with Bush confirming it all when he became President. CAFTA would cause just more turmoil.

Posted by: Tapart News Advocate at June 22, 2005 07:17 PM