Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Return of the Son of NAFTA: The Central American Free Trade Agreement Is a Sequel That's Really Scary

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Return of the Son of NAFTA: The Central American Free Trade Agreement Is a Sequel That's Really Scary

Article excerpt

IF YOUR YOUTH WAS, LIKE MINE, FOOLISHLY SQUANDERED in front of the boob tube after school--in the era just before reruns ruined afternoon television--you got to see some of early Hollywood's great and not-so-great films. You probably even got a chance to experience that first, pretty scary version of Frankenstein and enjoyed it enough to sit through the entire series as the franchise grew less impressive with each straining offspring.

But this summer heralds a blockbuster sequel that promises to be every bit as horrifying as its original. If you thought the dread North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was a frightening deal for Canadian, U.S., and Mexican workers and our toxin-splattered, carbon-choked hemisphere, then be afraid, be very afraid, when CAFTA: Son of NAFTA appears at a congressional office trough near you.

CAFTA, the Central American Free Trade Agreement, promises to exceed its parent. That's no small accomplishment. NAFTA led to unspeakable trade deficits and the gruesome cannibalizing of manufacturing jobs here in the United States and wrought the wretched end of centuries of agricultural tradition in southern Mexico. Now CAFTA, its monstrous progeny, threatens to spread the despair ever deeper into the South.

Comprehensive trade deals like NAFTA and CAFTA reflect the culmination of years of painstaking negotiation. The trouble is virtually all of that massive--and in CAFTA's case, mostly secretive--dialogue is focused on liberating capital from most reasonable social restraints, leading to diminished food security in weaker nations but new vistas of profit opportunism for large corporations and agribusinesses.

Left out of these deals are responsible side agreements to protect fragile ecosystems and indigenous communities or poor farmers and industrial workers in both the affluent and deprived worlds. The latter two groups typically bear the brunt of the many economic, social, and cultural adjustments such trade deals compel. Global manufacturers, meanwhile, race to the bottom of the wage-scale, placing capital squarely over all other concerns as if profit maximization were the only social good worth realizing through economic treaties. …

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