U.S. Rep. Bernie Sanders (Ind-Ver) said today (Friday, Jan. 14) he will oppose the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), which would broaden the
Canada-U.S.-Mexico NAFTA agreement to include
Costa Rica, the Dominican
Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala,
Honduras and Nicaragua.
With a congressional vote on the issue possible as early as March, Sanders said he would focus on such issues as the treaty's effect on domestic jobs, the U.S. trade deficit and what he described as "abusive labor conditions" in the Central American countries.
"Unfettered free trade has been an absolute disaster," he said in a news release on his web site. "Our trade agreements with
China, Mexico, and other third-world countries have led to the loss of millions of decent-paying
U.S. jobs and a record-breaking trade deficit that is projected to top $600 billion. Why on earth
would we want to continue on this destructive path by enacting another job-cutting trade agreement
Sanders said that "sweatshops, child labor, horrendous working conditions, extremely low
pay and the abuse of workers have been well-documented in these countries for years by Human Rights
Watch, the National Labor Committee and other Non-Governmental Organizations.
"CAFTA would completely eliminate U.S. tariffs on all non-textile and non-agricultural products made in Central
American countries and the Dominican Republic immediately, and phase in the duty-free treatment of
other Central American goods entering the U.S. within 5-20 years," he added. "As such, CAFTA would provide enormous incentives for U.S. corporations to close more factories in the U.S., and open factories in Central America where cheap labor is abundant.
“The economic challenge of the 21st Century is to stop U.S. corporations from
outsourcing our jobs abroad to cheap foreign labor markets, and start getting them to invest in the
United States of America," he said. "If we don’t, the middle class will continue to shrink, as we lose more
and more good-paying jobs. Unfortunately, CAFTA will continue to make jobs our number one export
and, as such, must be defeated in Congress.”
Sanders also said he expects to reintroduce legislation "to repeal Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China and the Defending American Jobs Act to prohibit companies that lay-off a greater percentage of American workers than overseas workers from receiving corporate welfare from the federal government."