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Tuesday, April 06, 2004

CAFTA Debate

Everybody is taking sides on the debate over the Central American Free Trade Agreement, according to the New York Times:

Senator John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, says he is opposed to Cafta because it fails to protect workers in Central America as well as American workers, "who are forced to compete hopelessly against companies that abide by no rules whatsoever."

To the Bush administration, that sounds like political showboating. Robert B. Zoellick, the United States trade representative, argues that Cafta, with its enforcement clauses to improve labor rights and fines for offenders, has the best labor provisions ever negotiated in a trade agreement. "No country is doing more than the United States to push for strong labor and environmental provisions in international trade agreements," Mr. Zoellick said. "While some other countries talk about labor and the environment in the context of trade, only the United States is actually doing something to integrate these topics as an active part of its trade agenda."

The Institute for International Economics, a centrist research group in Washington, recently published a policy brief on labor standards and Cafta, arguing that "globalization and workers rights are complementary" and that greater respect for the core international labor standards could help spread trade benefits more broadly.

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