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Free Trade - Bush Style

The House passed the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) 217 to 215. The vote happened after midnight, and only after President Bush, administration officials and Republican “leaders” “twisted arms” and made “deals” did the vote reach this point. The tactics used were revolting and the result of this “success” by the Bush administration should not be called “free trade” but “Big Business trade.”

Before the vote, the president arrived to convince Republicans of the beauties of CAFTA. He and Republican leaders cracked a few arms and made deals. At about 11:17 PM, during the usual 15-minute voting period, the NO votes were ahead 180 - 175. House Republican leaders extended the voting period by 47 minutes for further arm cracking and deal pushing. Here are a few examples of these "democratic" tactics:

  • ADERHOLT DEAL - Representative Robert P. Aderholt of Alabama agreed to vote for CAFTA after he got a letter signed by Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierez and U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman promising to protect sock manufacturers and poultry producers in his district. This is free trade?

  • BOB INGLIS DEAL - Representative Bob Inglis of South Carolina voted for CAFTA after he received 3 free-trade-killing commitments:
    1. Central American countries could export trousers duty-free to the United States only if they are made with pockets and linings from American mills
    2. An increase in the amount of American fabric that Nicaragua agrees to buy in making clothing for exports
    3. Making it tougher for Central American clothing factories to rely on fabric from Mexico

  • TAYLOR NO VOTE - Representative Charles H. Taylor of North Carolina voted NO, but, he explains, the vote was not recorded. What a shame!

  • DAVIS LATE - Representative Ann Davis of Virginia went to a Boy Scout event and then arrived too late to vote. Could it be she did not realize that with her and Taylor's NO votes CAFTA would be doomed?
This maneuvering and manipulation demonstrates to the world that Bush is not concerned with free trade. He is only concerned with helping Big Business. Business only, and not workers. Neither is he concerned with any effort to improve the environment.

A huge-clout industry is "Big Pharma." Big pharmaceutical companies inserted language in the accord, to prevent cheaper, generic drug manufacturers from selling their products, including life-preserving anti-retroviral treatments for AIDS victims, to needy patients in the region. Because of this "free trade" agreement, many sick people in Central America will die.

It makes me sick when I hear members of this administration declare that CAFTA will help the poor and helpless in Central America. "Big Pharma" will make money. Central American poor will get poorer and sicker.

CAFTA is anti-labor and Republicans have made it so. Senator Kerry offered an amendment to CAFTA back in the Senate Finance Committee. Its purpose was to force CAFTA to include stronger provisions to protect American and Central American workers. Kerry thought that since the bill contains measures to allow corporations to challenge violations of patents and intellectual property, it should also contain similar measures for workers to challenge violations of labor laws. Republicans voted solidly against this.

CAFTA is a monstrosity, a Republican monstrosity. It serves only the interests of Big Business at the expense of labor, both American and Central American, and takes advantage of the poor and sick in Central America.

This is free trade - Bush style.

Posted by Paul Siegel at July 29, 2005 5:57 PM