HARKIN TO OPPOSE CAFTA
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.”