Free trade agreements are great for companies large enough to take advantage of them, which is why the Bush administration is so happy with the passage of CAFTA by the Congress. Now, Bush&Co can really say that they are the CEO administration. This is just one more example of how this group represents the interests of Fortune 500â€™s Mahogany Row over those of the worker and small business.
From The Nation:
â€œThe removal of investment barriers will further open public enterprises in Central American countries to privatization. Moreover, the deal contains dispute-resolution mechanisms similar to NAFTA’s Chapter 11, which allows corporations to sue governments for regulations (including the enforcement of local environmental laws), that they believe infringe on their rights. (Emphasis mine)
Why should foreign corporations have rights that supersede those of a nationâ€™s citizenry? On behalf of their corporate sugar-daddies our government is willing to undermine the legal and political framework of any country in order to provide cheap labor and freedom from environmental regulation. We as Americans allow it for a couple of reasons 1) the majority of this country is just plain ignorant and 2) there is a false sense of superiority that being a worker in the US engenders in our population. For the longest time this was especially true in technology but I have a feeling that the H1 visa has disabused many programmers of this myth. Right now the financial workers are the only ones left that believe their place in the labor force food chain to be unassailable. They should wise up and learn something from their techno brethren â€“ no one is safe from outsourcing and when a program subroutine and some part-time tele-jockey can be scripted tight enough, you are history.
From the same article:
CAFTA stipulations defending intellectual property threaten to move AIDS treatment beyond the reach of many Central Americans in need. “Generic competition has lowered HIV drug costs,” says Asia Russell of the nonprofit Health GAP. “If Bush gets his way, CAFTA will lock countries into tough new patent rules that will drive the cost of life-saving drugs up and delay or obstruct generic competition.”(Emphasis mine)
Apparently, the Medicare bill US pharmaceutical companies pushed through Congress wasnâ€™t enough. Now, they can corner the Central American market as well. Hey, we get it, Pharma. You guys spend a lot of money in R&D, trials, bribing the FDA to not bother about long-term studies, shoving brand-name drugs down the throat of a hypochondriac nation, you need to make top dollar as long as possible through as many drugs as possible in as many markets as possible. We get it; you are a bunch of soulless drones captive to your shareholders and profit-sharing schemes. It is one thing to manipulate the patent expiration on Viagra but AIDS drugs? People are suffering all over the world and you are so worried about protecting your profit that you would condemn the poor to death rather than lower your prices. You are hiding behind a free trade agreement to rob those who have the least. And why shouldnâ€™t you when your pet government is so willing to ensure you get exactly what you want.
From the Washington Post
Never before has the United States negotiated a free-trade deal with countries so poor. The nations that have struck free-trade agreements with Washington in recent years come mostly from the “middle income” or wealthy ranks. Even Mexico had income per capita of about $4,200 when NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, was negotiated in the early 1990s, said Sandra Polaski, a trade specialist at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. By contrast, income per capita in Nicaragua is about $400, while the comparable figure in Honduras is about $900, slightly less than levels in El Salvador in Guatemala.(Emphasis mine)
Not only are these countries poor and already dependent upon the US economy for the majority of their export income but they rely upon the dollars sent home from workers who have come to the US (both legally and illegally) to underwrite their staggering import bills. CAFTA isnâ€™t so much about helping the citizens of these countries to build a better life. This is about shoring up our regional economic hegemony, holding on to captive markets. There is no such thing as â€œfree trade.â€ The workers and small business will pay, and pay dearly, for this latest round of corporate coddling.