May 28, 2004
For Immediate Release
Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry released the following statement today in response to the signing the U.S.-Central American Free Trade Agreement:
"Over the last decade, I have consistently supported free trade agreements that have both opened markets and made progress in requiring enforceable labor and environmental standards. In the 1990s, that progress included the free trade agreement with Jordan which included strong and enforceable labor and environmental provisions in the core of the agreement.
"As the nations of Central America are among our closest neighbors and allies, I greatly wish that the Bush administration was today signing a trade agreement with Central America that was built on that progress and was worthy of our support.
"Unfortunately, the free trade agreement that was signed today marks a disappointing and unnecessary step backwards in our nation's efforts to ensure that opening markets results in higher living standards on all sides and not a race to the bottom on worker rights and environmental protection.
"Therefore I will oppose the CAFTA as currently negotiated by President Bush. Instead of building on the progress of the Jordan agreement, CAFTA marks a reversal by not including adequate and fully enforceable protections for labor rights and environmental protections in the core of the agreement.
"Despite the economic and social progress made by our Central American neighbors in recent years, the record of very weak protections for core labor rights and inadequate enforcement records makes it especially essential that CAFTA include strong and enforceable labor and environmental protection in the core of the agreement. As now constructed, CAFTA would actually make the current situation worse because it would take away a strong tool to help address violations of core labor standards that is now included in our current system of trade preferences for Central America.
"The United States should trade more with our allies and neighbors in Central America to spark growth and strengthen ties between our nations. President Bush is failing these countries by knowingly signing an agreement that not only misses the mark on labor and environmental standards, but has so little support that he won't even submit it to the US Congress.
"As President I will work hard to strengthen our economic and political ties with our neighbors in Central America. I will bring us back to the negotiating table to develop an agreement that provides economic benefits, creates jobs and includes strong protections for labor and the environment."