Tom Harkin - U.S. Seante

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WASHINGTON, DC – Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) will today vote against ratifying the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). Harkin remains concerned that the agreement submitted to Congress will provide only modest benefits to U.S. agriculture while undermining protection against the use of abusive child labor in Central America. CAFTA will also force American workers, farmers and businesses to compete with countries that have lower environmental and labor standards, enhancing the incentive for businesses to re-locate operations to that region, threatening U.S. jobs.

“CAFTA will further a trend that too many Americans know all too well,” said Harkin. “Many corporations will be tempted to take advantage of inadequate labor and environmental standards and move jobs and investment outside the U.S.”

CAFTA would allow increased trade between the U.S. and five Central American countries as well as the Dominican Republic. Bush Administration officials have argued that the agreement will provide large benefits for U.S. businesses and agriculture. Yet, many of the provisions of CAFTA will not be implemented for well over a decade and the increased opportunities for farmers and businesses from trade with low-income Central American economies remain unclear.

“This agreement would provide modest gains for U.S. agriculture at best,” said Harkin. “And more importantly, family farms, rural communities and Iowa businesses will likely see stiffer challenges under CAFTA.”

The Bush Administration chose to leave out of CAFTA measures that would enforce international labor rights, including child labor, standards. Both the U.S. State Department and the United Nations International Labor Organization have documented child labor violations in all six CAFTA countries. CAFTA countries have also violated other basic labor rights.

“CAFTA should not strictly focus on the economic value and costs of trade,” said Harkin. “It should also address the use of abusive child labor, and the economic future of working families, both in the United States and Central America.”

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