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Congress Hands Bush Victory on CAFTA

posted on July 29, 2005

Passage of the energy bill required some amount of compromise. Approval of the Central American Free Trade Agreement was more a case of hard ball politics.

The Senate had approved CAFTA last month, but there was every indication heading into this week's vote in the House that the contentious free trade deal was going down.

Opponents of CAFTA came from both sides of the aisle. Democrats disliked what they saw as a lack of safeguards on the environmental and labor fronts. And Republicans feared the potential for domestic job loss and a growing trade deficit.

But in the end, some old-fashioned arm twisting provided just enough leverage to get the trade deal approved.


Congress Hands Bush Victory on CAFTA

In a rare visit to Capital Hill this week, President Bush personally lobbied members of the House of Representatives in support of the Central America Free Trade Agreement, or CAFTA.

The presidents personal appeal paid off as the House narrowly passed the trade agreement, 217 to 215.

In floor debate, critics argued that CAFTA will result in an increased trade deficit and the loss of American jobs. They also said the agreement will make Latin American workers vulnerable to working without employment protections.

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-CA: "My conscience refuses to allow me to vote for CAFTA, a trade agreement that will enslave the children of Central America."

Textile and sugar producers, two powerful domestic industries, were among the most bitterly opposed to CAFTA

The pact will allow a modest increase in sugar imports from CAFTA nations. That led U.S growers to fear a precedent was being set to open the domestic market to greater imports of foreign-grown sugar.

Rep. Gene Green, D-TX: "This CAFTA is not a dream& it's really gonna be a nightmare."

Proponents of CAFTA argued that 80 percent of Central American products already enter the U.S. duty-free. The also note the U.S. is only the 13th largest market for products from Central America, totaling some $17 billion a year.

Rep. Joe Pitts, R-PA: "Is it the death knell for the textile industry? ... by no means. American products, American ingenuity, can compete with any other nation on the planet. And free trade enables us to do it and it lowers costs for consumers here and it ultimately creates jobs."

The agreement further opens U.S. markets to goods from Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and the Dominican Republic.

The Senate passed CAFTA last month; now, the trade deal will go to the president to be signed into law.


Tags: agriculture George W. Bush government Latin America news presidents trade