Sunday, February 27, 2005

More on CAFTA

The AP has an article this weekend which ran in several papers regarding the prospects of CAFTA's passage in the US Congress. The conventional wisdom has not changed -- the vote is too close to call and the opposition of Democrats, the sugar and textile industries may be enough to block passage. The Arizona Republic carries an article describing the split in Arizona's Congressional delegation over the issue.

Another good source of facts and statistics about CAFTA is a report issued by the Congressional Research Service in November 2004. This 70 page report is certainly more balanced than the material on the US Trade Representative's web site. Here is a sample:

Human Rights Watch recently reported that only 5% of the labor force in El Salvador is unionized, and even those that are unionized are minimally protected by a weak Ministry of Labor (MOL) and a corrupt judicial system. In June 2001, the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association noted that the country’s existing labor code restricts freedom of association. The labor code requires burdensome union registration procedures, prohibits union formation and strikes among public sector employees, and does not require the reinstatement of workers unfairly dismissed. Corruption is prevalent among labor inspectors and in the labor courts, as the MOL dismissed five inspectors in 2001 for accepting bribes from companies. Further evidence of deficiencies within the MOL can be seen in its failure to use the power it was given by a 1996 law to inspect companies operating in the free trade zones (FTZs) and then sanction ones which exhibit substandard working conditions. These conditions often include low pay, health and safety risks, 12-14 hour work days, minimum toilet and rest breaks, mandatory pregnancy tests, and the firing of workers who are pregnant. Opponents of DR-CAFTA point out that the agreement may serve to perpetuate these abuses as its weak provisions merely require signatories to enforce their existing labor laws, rather than reforming those laws to meet international standards. They further assert that the penalties for countries not enforcing their labor laws are relatively weak.

The CRS Report contains descriptions of the political and economic situations of all the countries who are party to CAFTA and goes through each of the areas such as intellectual property, envirnmental laws, tarriffs, agriculture and labor affected by the proposed treaty. It's highly recommended reading.

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