Thursday, January 20, 2005

CAFTA -- A Winnable Fight

John Nichols, writing in the current issue of The Nation looks at the political landscape in Congress and concludes that it is possible for CAFTA not to obtain the neccessary votes in the US House of Representatives. The time for anti-CAFTA groups to make their case to legislators is right now:

Representative Sherrod Brown, who wrote the book Myths of Free Trade and who is expected to lead Congressional opposition to CAFTA, says, "The key is to make sure that members who are on the fence feel heat early." This means that foes of the corporate free-trade regimen are in a race against time. The US Chamber of Commerce and other business lobbying groups are preparing a major campaign to pressure House members to back CAFTA; members from both parties can expect to be reminded that backing CAFTA will put them in the good graces of groups that write big campaign-contribution checks. But recent developments, including the Melancon victory and the easy re-election of Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold, who made opposition to free-trade pacts a central theme of his campaign, have also made them aware that, at least in some parts of the country, trade may have become a potent-enough issue to trump traditional political advantages.

While the new Congress was being sworn in, fair-trade activists from across the country gathered in Washington to plot strategy and begin lobbying. The coalition is broader than in the past. Traditional critics of free-trade pacts, like the AFL-CIO and Global Exchange, are on board, but so are a growing number of green groups--the Sierra Club, for example, is warning that CAFTA rules blocking barriers to trade could undermine the ability of local governments to protect the environment. And solidarity organizations like the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador and Witness for Peace, as well as religious groups with histories of involvement in Central America, argue that CAFTA will do far more for the bottom lines of multinational corporations than it will ever do for the poor in Latin America.

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