The Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) is a regional agreement currently being negotiated between the US and five Central American countries: Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. The Dominican Republic was added to the agreement in August 2004.
What does the “Free” in “Free Trade” stand for?
It doesn’t mean that you or I get anything for free. It only means that corporations gain more freedom to invest overseas, and to import and export what workers produce. Giant multi-national corporations get free reign to force privatizations, reduce trade barriers, force their products into foreign markets and hunt for the cheapest labor. Workers, on the other hand, are forced into lower wages to compete against one another across borders, or risk losing their jobs when companies relocate to countries with cheaper labor.
Companies in the US relocate to other countries with cheaper labor, putting US workers out of work. Meanwhile, in poorer countries, factory workers are forced to compete against each other in sweatshops for cheaper and cheaper wages, while small farmers and small producers are forced into bankruptcy.
NAFTA, a similar trade agreement in effect since 1993 between the US, Canada and Mexico has already led to the loss of over 800,000 jobs in the US, while sweatshop workers in Mexico have seen their real wages drop over 27%, and thousands of small farmers in Mexico have been run off their lands.
“Free Trade” means freedom to exploit!
What do workers gain from “Free Trade”: Nothing.
In theory, we are told that more open competition will lead to reduced prices for commodities, but in reality, the first commodity to lose value is our labor. Workers are forced to bid down their wages. Jobs are lost due to relocation. Services are cut back due to the forced privatizations, the obvious failure of the State and its failure to assume its responsibilities. The environment becomes more endangered and miserable.
Because of this difficult situation, because of the yellow unions playing their opportunistic role, but especially because of the repression that is spreading over the working class and the popular masses in general, fighting unions yet undecided to fight till the end are losing much ground as well as many of their members and power. The local ruling classes and their government lackeys help the giant corporations maximize their profits! They have all the rights! Meanwhile, those of the workers, when they exist, remain merely on paper. Big multi-national corporations win big, but workers in the US, workers in Central America, and workers in the Dominican Republic lose. Workers everywhere are pushed into a race to the bottom. Workers all over lose.
CAFTA-DR is bad for workers in the Dominican Republic and in Haiti:
Sweatshop owners in the Dominican Republic and sweatshop owners in Haiti are the eager sub-contractors of multi-national corporations waiting to invest into this low wage “Free Trade” bonanza. They are both partners in the exploitation of workers throughout the island. All they are waiting for is the moment for them to come install the free trade zones to be able to come readily exploit this cheap labor. The unbridled exploitation already existing throughout the island is their product! The recent deportations of Haitian immigrants back to Haiti from the Dominican Republic are destined to repress and intimidate workers both in both countries. When Haitian immigrants are repressed in the Dominican Republic, it leads to lower wages for all workers there, because it forces all workers to compete for lower wages. When Haitian immigrants are deported back to Haiti, it also leads to lower wages for all workers in Haiti, because it increases competition amongst the unemployed for the scarce jobs available. And the more these deportations are brutally carried out, the more the Haitian workers are destroyed and in an inferior position to negotiate their labor’s value in Haiti. Thus, while this process attacks all Haitian workers rights, while it certainly even traumatizes them, on the other hand, quite to the contrary: it profits both countries’ bourgeoisie completely! This explains why the governments in power and existing to serve the bosses everywhere, whether in Haiti or the Dominican Republic, have never really taken any action to stop these crimes, except when these actions go too far and begin to cause problems on the international arena.
At the Americas Heads of State meeting (which excluded Cuba) held in Monterey, Mexico, January 12th and 13th, Aristide, needing these countries’ recognition of his presidency, signed a document granting foreign capitalists 18 sweatshop “Free Trade Zones”! The Association of Haitian Industrialists (ADIH, in French) had already suggested for a number of them to run all along the Dominican-Haitian border (see their presentation in an ADIH document titled “Zone franche Ouanaminthe, Twin project Haiti and Dominican Republic” Haiti-Adih, June 2002”: this is the juicy attraction American, Dominican and Haitian capitalists are presently pushing for in a plan openly will capitalize on the Haitian workers’ misery: this plan is the CAFTA-DR.
As workers, we can’t possibly endorse a plan of so-called “economic development” that depends on our misery for its success! Let’s not let them divide us! All the feuds we hear exist between our 2 people either are details (that we shouldn’t give undue importance to!) or the enemy’s putting them in our minds so they can benefit on our backs while we fight! NO! To the contrary: let us unite! Be one! As a people, a WORKING PEOPLE! TO FACE this project the two countries bourgeoisies want to shove down our throats!