Yesterday’s House Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection hearing on the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) featured some the most intense opposition to CAFTA expressed in any of the hearings thus far on CAFTA. While previous hearings in the House and Senate have featured a fair number of legislators voicing opposition to CAFTA, opposition at Thursday’s hearing was more intense with members of the Committee arguing that it is time to stop “failed experiments” with trade agreements like NAFTA and the similarly written CAFTA. Committee members focused many of their questions on the failed promises of NAFTA and CAFTA’s failure to incorporate strong labor and environmental standards. Of course, there were Committee members who expressed unbridled support for free trade, but their questions were limited.
The hearing, featuring two panels and a session with Assistant US Trade Representative for the Americas Regina K. Vargo, was considerably more balanced than last week’s hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee, which was heavily stacked with proponents of CAFTA. Whereas that hearing featured 11 panelists with eight in favor of CAFTA, yesterday’s hearing had an even balance at four and four, preceded by testimony from Assistant US Trade Representative Regina K. Vargo. Representatives from the Emergency Committee for American Trade, the Chambers of Commerce of Latin America, and the George Mason University Department of Economics, and the National Association of Manufacturers spoke in favor of the agreement while the folks opposed to the agreement were from the AFL-CIO, American Sugar Alliance, Friends of the Earth, and the US Business and Industry Council.
A transcript of the hearing is available online and regular updates on CAFTA are posted on the Stop CAFTA Campaign site maintained by Media Mouse.