May 04, 2005

CAFTA Discussion in House

Paraphrased from today's floor debate on the floor of the House of Representatives.

Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA) said that with half the workers in the CAFTA countries making under $2 a day, they have the combined purchasing power of Newhaven, CT, and can't afford to buy things like Folger's coffee and Tide laundry detergent.

Lynch said that they can't help our ballooning trade deficit, and that the only parties that will benefit from CAFTA will be companies who want to send jobs overseas. He also noted the lack of worker and environmental protections in these countries which remain unadressed in the trade agreement.

Rep. Tom Allen (D-ME) said that his main objections to CAFTA have to do with the concentration of wealth and power, particularly since tax cuts and a lack of other action from Republicans do nothing to help those who do lose their jobs. He noted that as much as $1500 of the cost of manufacturing a car might go to paying pensioners and healthcare, which decrease competitiveness, and contribute to losing jobs to places like Ontario, Canada. He suggested that the combination of factors makes the lack of a national plan to deal with job loss more problematic, and said that though some jobs might be created as claimed, it seemed likely to him that even more would be lost.

Allen said that a lack of environmental and labor standards encourage companies to leave for countries with less protection, and makes it harder for companies who don't want to behave that way to compete. He said that the one exception of an approach that was too unregulated was the pharmaceutical clauses, which extend primary patent exclusion by five years, keeping generics of the market to the detriment of public health.

Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY) noted his strong support of past free trade agreements, but said that he looks at each on its individual merits. He said that it didn't seem to him that the bill would help Americans whose wages are falling while the cost of living is going up.

Rep. Michael Michaud (D-ME) pointed out again that it would be a year on May 29th, instead of the usual 55 days, since the bill had been ready and that it indicated dissension in congress. He said that as NAFTA had precipitated the loss of a million jobs, CAFTA would follow in its footsteps. He said it would only support access to cheap labor markets whose workers can't buy the things they make, while doing nothing to address conditions like the 30% unemployment rate in areas of his home state of Maine.

Michaud also mentioned the high losses in the footwear and apparel industries, which reminded me of a startling statistic I recently stumbled on: 80% of the world's shoes are now made in China.

Posted by natasha at May 4, 2005 05:03 PM | US Politics | Technorati links |

"80% of the world's shoes are now made in China"

And they're crap. Pay a few more dollars and support companies that actually pay their employees, and make a much better, longer lasting product.

Just check the label in the shoe before you buy.

Posted by: uptown at May 4, 2005 05:28 PM

Uptown - absolutely.

Adam Smith has turned against this, as well, due to the work of some International Studies students at the UW who wrote a 300-page paper and gave a presentation on why CAFTA will seriously damage Latin America.

Posted by: Ben Schiendelman at May 5, 2005 11:13 AM