Today, Donald Trump is a scapegoat for Latin American immigrants for the economic insecurity that many Americans face with his racist attacks and xenophobic obsession with building a wall along our southern border. But it is the same U.S. trade policy that is hurting workers in the United States, who have left many people in Central America with no choice but to migrate as they struggle to feed and provide for their families. Worse, NAFTA has contributed to economic instability in the region. Prior to the very limited adoption of NAFTA, development organizations warned that the agreement could crowd out family farmers, who make up a significant portion of Central America`s workforce by forcing them to compete directly with the highly subsidized U.S. agricultural industry. Indeed, agricultural imports from the United States to Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala have doubled since the agreement entered into force, while the balance of agricultural trade between countries and the United States has declined, implying the movement of farmers. Ten years ago, the office of the U.S. Trade Representative sold cafta as the “best trade deal ever on labor” with “world-class” labor rules. These provisions did not prevent the murder of 68 Guatemalan unionists during the seven years of the pact without a single arrest.
In 2008, the AFL-CIO and Guatemalan unions filed a formal complaint in accordance with CAFTA`s labor rules and called for an end to widespread anti-union violence, wage theft and other abuses. It was only six years and dozens of Unionist assassinations later that the U.S. government proceeded to arbitration in this case. The U.S. lost that case and proved that the model of labor standards in U.S. trade agreements was deeply flawed. (If a case related to the serious and endemic violence against unionists in Guatemala cannot be won, where could a case under these rules be successful….) Even today, Guatemalan trade union workers suffer frequent attacks almost unpunished. Why has CAFTA, like the US trade deals before and after, failed to stem widespread labor abuses? Kim Elliot, member of the U.S. National Advisory Committee on Laboratory Commissions The Department of Labor`s Free Trade Agreements, recently proposed this blunt statement: “The labor rules of U.S.
trade agreements are in there because they are necessary to get deals through Congress.” She added: “It`s really just about politics and not how to raise labour standards in these countries.” CAFTA`s work rules have proven equally ineffective in the Dominican Republic, where sugarcane workers endure 12-hour workdays in unsafe conditions without receiving statutory overtime pay. A Spanish priest who filed an official CAFTA complaint to correct the abuses was informed by U.S. Labor Department officials: “Nothing will happen if he doesn`t comply.” In fact, nothing happened. Despite CAFTA`s world-class labor rules, underpaid workers in the Dominican Republic continue to work in deplorable conditions. Costa Rica General Notices and Annex I [PDF format, 28 KB] Letter on shirt fabrics Study [PDF format, 7 KB]. Understanding some public health measures [PDF format, 5 KB] Costa Rica Annex to Annex 3.3 [PDF format, 597 KB]. . .