The House of Representatives is moving toward a vote on the proposed Central American Free Trade Agreement, and the spin machines of the White House and the corporate special interests – along with their amen corner in the media – are working overtime.
These are the days when the big lies get told – as we learned more than a decade ago when the Clinton White House was busy working with congressional Republicans to win support for the North American Free Trade Agreement and more recently when Congress debated establishing permanent normal trade relations with China.
To counter the Orwellian twists of facts and figures that are sure to come from the White House and its political allies, fair trade campaigners (www.citizenstrade.org and www.wiscotrader.org) have come up with a top 10 list of trade doublespeak – and the facts to counter it:
No. 10: Our trade deficit actually shows how strong the economy is.That’s a lot like arguing that the more you go into debt, the richer you really are. Here’s what happened with NAFTA: Our trade deficit with those countries is 12 times bigger than before the pact – it shot up from $9 billion in 1993 to $111 billion last year. A high trade deficit weakens our economy.
No. 9: CAFTA slows immigration.This same false promise was made under NAFTA, and we all witnessed the opposite result of increased immigration from Mexico. CAFTA has back-door provisions that may make U.S. immigration laws and visa requirements in violation of the agreement, and unenforceable.
No. 8: CAFTA opens a substantial market for U.S.goods.Central America has some of the poorest countries in the world, and the aggregate economy of the six CAFTA nations is minuscule. “Add up the six CAFTA economies and you get a market the size of New Haven, Conn.,” points out trade analyst Alan Tonelson of the U.S. Business and Industry Council. Tonelson concludes that CAFTA is a “classic outsourcing agreement” – an arrangement in which the only significant U.S. export would be manufacturing jobs to poor, low-wage nations.
No. 7: CAFTA helps the working poor of Central America.Since NAFTA, real wages for Mexican workers have fallen. Over 1.5 million displaced Mexican subsistence farmers were turned into unemployed masses. Mexico is becoming poorer. Today, 40 percent of Central America’s workers earn less than $2 a day. Their employment rights are routinely abused, and CAFTA will require these countries to merely enforce their own weak and unfair labor laws. CAFTA is about making corporations, not Central American workers, richer.