WASHINGTON (AP) - The Labor Department worked for more than a year to maintain secrecy for studies that were critical of working conditions in Central America, the region the Bush administration wants in a new trade pact. ... In a summary of its findings, the organization wrote, ``In practice, labor laws on the books in Central America are not sufficient to deter employers from violations, as actual sanctions for violations of the law are weak or nonexistent.'' The conclusions contrast with the administration's arguments that Central American countries have made enough progress on such issues to warrant the free-trade deal. ... Behind the scenes, the Labor Department began as early as spring 2004 to block public release of the country-by-country reports. The department instructed its contractor to remove the reports from its Web site, ordered it to retrieve paper copies before they became public, banned release of new information from the reports, and even told the contractor it could not discuss the studies with outsiders.The administration says that they took steps to prevent the results from being known because it disagreed with them. It's described alternately as 'biased' and 'fraudulent'. Surely, if there is a case to be made, there are better ways to make it than by trying to pretend that the group they hired never gave a list of reasons to reject CAFTA. How about discussing the issue on the merits? The pro-CAFTA administration is acting like a group with everything to hide. Increased economic opportunities are great, but the facts matter. And without fair Central American labor laws in place, CAFTA will not help the people who need it.
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
The Senate Finance Committee has approved CAFTA. The government is pushing a rather simplistic "free trade good" line, and apparently, it's working so far. Free trade certainly offers many economic advantages. But the most open system isn't necessarily the best one; it depends on a variety of complex factors. Who will benefit from open trade? The farmers and factory workers who most need it, or megacorporations? How will workers be treated? These are important questions, and they need to be answered before it's clear that opening the markets in this way is a good idea. The Bush Administration is not interested in answering these questions. Worse -- much worse, the Bush Administration is interested in actively supressing the answers to these questions. Here's a bit of the AP story: