Rep. Wasserman Schultz: "CAFTA Sets the Bar Too Low"
Announces opposition to trade agreement at bi-partisan Capitol Hill press conference
At a bi-partisan press conference, Rep. Wasserman Schultz delivered the following remarks announcing her opposition to the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA):
"As a freshman Member of Congress, I have a unique opportunity to cast my first vote on a trade agreement and establish standards that will set the bar for my position on trade.
After seven months of vigorous review, I have determined that the Central America Free Trade Agreement sets the bar at a place so low that workers in the United States and Central America would trip over it if it were allowed to stay there.
While this review helped reaffirm that I am not a protectionist, it also helped me to understand that trade agreements should be a model for the future.
The labor enforcement provisions in the CAFTA agreement, while touted as historic, have gaping loopholes through which too many workers could fall. This is not an agreement that should be held up as the model for the future. We can and we must do better.
What is truly disappointing is that it did not have to be this way. The economic implications for my home state of Florida are significant and there was ample opportunity to make improvements that could earn the support of many of us.
I urge my colleagues that are still unsure to carefully read Article 16.2, titled Enforcement of Labor Laws in the Labor chapter of CAFTA.
What you will find there are cavernous provisions that include caveats and stipulations that allow too much room for violations to occur and should not be the standard to which we point when negotiating future agreements.
As a Member of Congress who represents the Gateway to Latin America, I feel a special responsibility to ensure that the path that travels through the gateway is smooth and does not present unexpected danger for those who travel on it. A quality trade agreement should give workers dignity and business owners access and those should be in equal measure. CAFTA fails that test for me and I cannot support it in its present form."
Regretfully, I will vote no when CAFTA reaches the floor of the House.