Magazine article The American Prospect

CAFTA Contortions

Magazine article The American Prospect

CAFTA Contortions

Article excerpt

IT'S A STRANGE TRADE agreement indeed that's sold to the public on the grounds that it won't lower barriers to the exchange of goods. But that's just the tactic Bush administration officials have adopted in their increasingly desperate attempt to persuade a skeptical public and Congress to support the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns told the audience of a June 13 online chat that "today ... more than 99 percent of the CAFTA-DR [Dominican Republic] nations' agricultural exports already enter the U.S. duty-free," a point he liked so much he repeated it twice more.

Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez also advanced this it's-no-big-deal perspective in his May 12 chat, noting that "80 percent of imports from the CAFTA region already come into the U.S. duty-free." Even the much-hyped raising of the sugar-import quotas won't amount to much. As Johanns noted, the new annual flow will equal "little more than one day's production in the United States"--hardly enough to save consumers from the tyranny of high-fructose corn syrup made in the United States, or to let sweet, plentiful Latin American cane sugar drive America's beet growers out of business. …

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