I tend to regard so-called Free Trade Agreements ('so-called" because intellectual property never seems to be included and farm subsisides, well you know . . .) like chiropractic treatment: a great deal of hype ("If we fix that subluxation, you'll never get the flu again!), some occasional relief, but the long term problems remain.
I think that long-time Central America observer, David Holiday, has the best comment here with regard to CAFTA:
In a day of high-level lobbying, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made the rounds to argue that Cafta would help heal old divisions in the region and foster stability. Late last night, Mr. Cheney camped out in an office just off the House floor, and Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez worked the halls.
Wait a minute -- CAFTA will "help heal old divisions" in the region?
NOT. CAFTA has already provided a useful political foil for the left, and now that the region's elites have it, they'll have to accept the political consequences should that reported 300,000 job gain in the region prove elusive. That can only help the left and other opposition forces. Which I doubt the Bush administration will be too happy about.
Boz understandably worries about the state of our democracy, but not for the obvious reasons:
During the debate over CAFTA, both sides demonized the other's position, which prevented compromise. Both sides pushed for votes on the basis of party lines and pork rather than what was right. Both sides talked as if failure was the end of the world. The party in power twisted arms and offered last minute deals to buy the votes necessary. Had the White House brought the moderate Democrats into the negotiation process, I truly believe this bill could have passed with 240-260 votes. But that's not how either side is playing the game of politics today. Some will say that's how politics works, but I don't think citizens should accept that as an answer.
A bill I felt was flawed, but yet I still believed was worth passing, made it through Congress last night. For some reason it makes me feel awful. And worse, I don't see a solution on the horizon.
Marc Cooper is peeved at the Democrats who voted for it and resolutely enraged about the possibility for harm to labor here and farmers in Central America:
Some of the other more traditional exports can also rebound against the domestic labor market. Cheap American corn that flooded into Mexico after passage of NAFTA wiped out as many as two million subsistence farmers whose most attractive remedy was to hop the border and compete for minimum wage jobs in American fields and factories.
One of the American crops that will be favored by CAFTA is rice – a true staple in Central America. Once the 35-60% tariff on U.S. rice is lifted will anyone care to guess how many scratch-dirt rice farmers will be ploughed under? Look for them to show up soon as “day laborers” on your local corner.
Such is the logic of current American politics: Bolster and exploit the economic disjunction in the hemisphere and then claim to clamp down on the border to keep out the displaced. In the meantime, American workers will have more free time on their hands to watch the spectacle as they will have fewer jobs to keep them occupied.
As for me, I still think the chiropractic analogy is most apt: a lot of hype some relief for a few, but the pain for the most part will continue.