The Hidden Pages of CAFTA

CAFTA, as summed up by anthropologist Liz Grandia:

Any na?ɬve Congressperson who thinks CAFTA is merely about free trade should look carefully at its provisions on government contracts and corporate lawsuits, among others.

Government contracts. For any purchases over $117,000 (eventually to be lowered to $58,000), CAFTA forces governments to open up bidding to transnational corporations. That means that states will no longer be able to give preference to home-based businesses, and so mom and pop stores in Central America and the U.S. will suddenly be competing with the Bechtels and the Halliburtons of the world.

Corporate lawsuits against governments. Perhaps CAFTA’s most worrisome provision expands the rights that corporations got under NAFTA to sue national governments over any laws perceived as barriers to trade and foreign investment. For instance, when California banned a carcinogenic gasoline additive called MTBE because it was seeping into the state’s drinking water, the chemical manufacturer, Methanex, sued California for infringing on its trade rights under NAFTA and demanded $970 million in compensation.
[A] subsidiary of Harken Energy (on whose board George W. Bush once served) has said it will demand $58 billion from Costa Rica (whose entire GDP is only $37 billion) in compensation for hypothetical future lost profits, if they are not allowed to drill offshore in Costa Rica’s protected Talamanca region–one of the planet’s richest marine ecosystems, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
CAFTA is like having a house guest who cleans out your refrigerator, claims your nicest bed, spends hours in the bathroom, takes exclusive control of the television remote control, and then–like Paris Hilton–demands that you pay for the pleasure of her company and then writes you off as a business expense.


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