Maybe, if we here in America are really concerned about undocumented immigrants coming into the country across our southern border, we could stop engaging in the predatory “free trade” practices that are collapsing economies and societies in their home countries and forcing them to migrate in the first place?
In 2004 and 2005, hundreds of thousands of protesters filled Central America’s streets.
They warned of the unemployment, poverty, hunger, pollution, diminished national sovereignty, and other problems that could result if DR-CAFTA were approved. But despite popular pressure, the agreement was ratified in seven countries—including Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and the United States.
Ten years after the approval of DR-CAFTA, we are seeing many of the effects they cautioned about.
Overall economic indicators in the region have been poor, with some governments unable to provide basic services to the population. Farmers have been displaced when they can’t compete with grain importedfrom the United States. Amid significant levels of unemployment, labor abuses continue. Workers in export assembly plants often suffer poor working conditions and low wages. And natural resource extraction has proceeded with few protections for the environment.
Contrary to the promises of U.S. officials—who claimed the agreement would improve Central American economies and thereby reduce undocumented immigration—large numbers of Central Americans have migrated to the United States, as dramatized most recently by the influx of children from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras crossing the U.S.-Mexican border last summer. Although most are urgently fleeing violence in their countries, there are important economic roots to the migration—many of which are related to DR-CAFTA.
DR-CAFTA, or the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement, allows companies to sue governments to “recover” profits lost due to pesky things like, oh, environmental regulations, worker safety regulations, and pretty much anything those governments try to do to protect their citizens from the excesses of those corporations. Central American governments, as a result are incentivized to allow multinational corporations to do pretty much whatever the hell they want to the people and the local environment, since those governments that do stand up to the corporations risk losing enormous sums of money in court. DR-CAFTA ensconces in U.S. law the idea that multinational corporations should be allowed to ignore and ultimately overrule the sovereign governments of the nations they seek to exploit. And this “investor protection” principle, as it’s called, is part of every trade agreement we make, including NAFTA and the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership.