Davis: CAFTA not good for Alabama, U.S.

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 20, 2005

Despite it’s passage through the Senate Finance Committee and the Ways and Means Committee, Congressman Artur Davis said he does not believe the bill will pass the Senate, and that’s the way he wants it.

“I think CAFTA would negatively impact Alabama,” the congressman said during a phone interview from Washington Thursday. “The textile and apparel industry has already taken a hit because of NAFTA, and those industries are attracted to low-wage jobs and unregulated labor laws.”

Davis said he believes if CAFTA – the Central America Free Trade Act – were to pass, it would only result in what few industries are left in the United States taking their companies, and American jobs, to those countries.

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The bill is an agreement between America and the six Latin American countries of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic that would end or phase out tariffs on beef, pork, corn, textiles and other products to those countries.

Products coming into America from those countries are currently duty free for them, but cost home companies sometimes as much as 40 percent to export.

Though the agreement would remove those barriers, Davis said it is not enough to outweigh the cost of job losses here at home and human rights in those countries.

“This agreement does include labor initiatives, but enforcement of those laws is left to the local countries, and that needs enormous work,” he said.

“The Central American countries are obligated only to follow their own laws, and there is no broader set of labor laws than exist in those countries,” he said.

He noted that particularly in countries listed in the CAFTA agreement, there is a huge problem with child labor.

“Approximately 14 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 got up and went to work this morning,” he said.

As for the removal of tariffs on U.S. exports to those countries, Davis said any additional profit seen by American producers by the plan would be negligible.

“This plan will do virtually nothing for this country,” he said. “Less than 1 percent of current enterprise would see any change at all. It comes down to whether (legislators) believe in our values as Americans. If they do, they will vote against this plan.”

Davis said the next step for the bill is to go to the House of Representatives, but he said he does not believe it will pass.

“If those representatives are honestly concerned with doing what’s right for their constituents, they will vote against it.”