Wednesday, July 27, 2005


By the end of this week, the House should have voted on the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), which loosens tariffs and trade restrictions with Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. President Bush is even visiting Capitol Hill today to firm up Republican support, although there are growing indications that the measure will pass. The Senate passed CAFTA by a 54-45 vote, with 10 Democrats voting for, and 12 Republicans voting against.

Unfortunately, as in the Senate, there will be very few House Democrats voting in support of CAFTA. Although there are legitimate concerns about environmental and labor standards in these countries, it is becoming increasingly apparent that, despite a reversal in the 90's which allowed for trade agreements such as NAFTA, Democrats are reverting to supporting protectionist trade policies. This is a mistake.

A decade ago, an increasing number of Democrats, under President Clinton's leadership, realized that open trade is beneficial to all countries involved. (Interestingly, Hillary Clinton voted against CAFTA.) Although the these trade agreements are not perfect, I believe that NAFTA has been beneficial to all three countries involved. Now certainly, most of the Central American countries are less developed than even Mexico is, but free trade will help those countries develop. The US has an interest in seeing those countries become more stable, and CAFTA will help to do that, it is too bad that too many Democrats don't realize that.