Page 25


Las Americas, continued from page 16 mistakes of the North American Free to lead to the same deteriorating trade balances, lost jobs, and workers’ rights violations that NAFTA has created!’ The President and Mr. Zoellick do not pay any mind to the Labor Advisory Committee, however. If you look at the website for the U.S. Trade Representative \( ghastly photo of Robert Zoellick and Sonia Guzman, Commerce Secretary for the Dominican Republic, which recently hitched itself to CAFTA too, holding hands, laughing and dancing, together with the trade ministers for the five Central American governments also involved. I am not kidding. Before they have even rammed this deal through Congress for ratification, the Zoellick people are doing the merengue and apparently having a hell of a kegger, they’re so pleased with themselves. Perhaps this is because they got better reviews from the Advisory Committee that really counts. The President’s Advisory Committee on Trade Policy praise for CAFTA: “In addition to its economic benefits for all parties, the CAFTA Agreement will contribute to political stability in the Western Hemisphere and advance regional cooperation. The CAFTA should be enacted into law as soon as possible, so America’s farmers and ranchers, factories, service providers and consumers can begin to receive the benefits of this agreement at the earliest possible date.” Wow. The President’s Committee went on, “The ACTPNwith one exceptionendorses the US-Central America Free Trade The “one exception” turns out to be former committee member James Hoffa, President of the Teamsters union and the only labor representative on the committee. George Bush appointed Hoffa to the Committee in 2003 after tossing John Sweeney, President of the AFL-CIO, and four other representatives of organized labor off the committee. In the end, even Hoffa couldn’t take it, and he resigned from ACTPN this past June, with this statement: “The administra tion has clearly decided to wage a fullfledged attack on workers’ rights, social justice and economic common sense. While I had hoped that the Teamsters could maintain some semblance of a working relationship with this administration through my service on ACTPN, President Bush’s decision to sign the Central American Free Trade Agreement to resign. I will no longer lend legitimacy to a sham process, in which our views and those of other important U.S. constituencies are not respected?’ Sour grapes. Not to be posted on the USTR website. On the contrary, the USTR pumps CAFTA by quoting positive statements from the other members of ACTPN and advisory committees to give the whole effort a democratic air, which it does not really deserve. The ACTPN, which Hoffa called a sham and resigned from, figures prominently in the hype for CAFTA, while the Labor Advisory Committee is mentioned only in passing as habitually rejecting all the trade agreements that have been so diligently negotiated by the partying trade geeks. But we’re not worried. We think these committees are unbiased. Why, when we look at the membership on ACTPN, where the opinions of members \(other count for something, we see individuals who seem to represent non-partisan and charitable organizationssure to play fair. Take Mr. Paul Norman Beckner of Citizens for a Sound Economy. Seems like he must be a nice man, doesn’t it? I’m for a sound economy too. But wait. It seems that the current chairman of Citizens for a Sound Econozation of grassroots citizens dedicated to free markets and limited government” is Dick Armey. We’re from Texas; we know what that means. And CSE is funded by Archer Daniels Midland, Daimler Chrysler, the former Enron, and Philip Morris, among others. It was founded by C. Boyden Gray, the former President Bush’s White House Counsel, and the Koch brothers of Koch Industries, the secondlargest privately-held company in the U.S. and a major polluter. These guys are not my idea of “grassroots?’ They’re more like great huge bushy weeds on the landscape. Okay, well maybe we can’t rely on Mr. Beckner to hold the line for us, but what about the other ACTPN members? Isn’t somebody there? The League of Women Voters? The PTA? Catholic Relief Services? Anyone? Nope. Nobody. Several parties, in fact, represent private companies dependent on the cheapest labor in the world: Victoria’s Secret, Jockey International, Quaker Fabric, and Toys “R” Us. Others are big-time contaminators like Weyerhauser. Or just plain big-time like CNH”a global leader in agricultural and construction equipment and financial services?’ The rest of the crew includes the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, IBM, eBay, Inc., the Republican Governor of Connecticut and the Carlyle Group. Not since the days of the Robber Barons in America has big money had such a clear shot at labor, the environment, and people in general. Industry tells the USTR what it wants in trade and investment rules with other countries, specifying access to low-wage labor, natural resources, and whatever else they’ve got. The USTR simply ignores everybody else. And Congress approves the negotiated trade agreements on an up-ordown vote. No questions, no answers, no amendments. Where CAFTA \(and now DRFTAthe Dominican Republic tected only by good-faith arrangements that assume a certain standard of basic human conduct in domestic political affairs. Quaint assumptions such as the idea that large constituencies who will be affected by major changes in the law will be consulted and protected. We don’t ask for a lot, but the Bush administration does not meet even these lowered expectations. We need to watch these people much more closely and raise hell. After all, their vicious Arabian war will be over in five years or so, after everyone’s dead and everything else is busted and bombed. But their trade agreements are going to last us almost forever. Gabriela Bocagrande is from Houston. 9/10/04 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 31