Rebeca Ramirez" />
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Friday, September 22, 2023


Trade agreements must not exploit workers

Whatever your position might be on the Central American Free Trade Agreement, there are important factors that should be considered. Small Central American countries cannot compare to the size and wealth of the U.S., much less compete fairly.

People who approve of the agreement argue that it generates jobs for these countries, but over 20 years Costa Rica, one of the participants of CAFTA since Oct. 7, had already started this process, exporting more than 3,000 products abroad. Costa Rica benefited from exportation, but also experienced a bigger unemployment rate and poverty line.

This is just an example, yet one can just look to our neighbors and see the failure of North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico. When Mexico, Canada and the United States formed NAFTA in 1994, the agreement only generated half of the employments it said it would; over half of the jobs don’t have vacation or healthcare benefits and over 2 million farmers went bankrupt and lost their land and means of profit.

Politics that benefit from the trade agreements like to swear that labor rights won’t be affected, but in reality the companies set the standards of work and pressure the workers. Trade agreements only cover certain labor rights: no hard labor, minimum age to work, acceptable work conditions and the right to form unions. They are all but too vague, because what is considered hard labor? Prostitution is a right and is permitted, but there are others forced into it. Trade agreements don’t specify the number of jobs that will be lost, but how many there will be. About 114,000 local industries run a risk in Costa Rica and over 200,000 jobs could be lost, yet it only secures 30,000 new jobs.

Politicians claim that without exportation, there would be fewer jobs in small economies, but in reality trade agreements don’t benefit every single industry, especially small, local ones. Out of every 100 jobs only 30 of those are related to exporting goods, and half of those with the U.S. This is why they like to instill fear, because so much is dependent on these farmers and industries that are easily swayed by saying that if trade agreements aren’t accepted the future of the country to export will be hopeless; but in reality most of these companies are American.

Central American farmers cannot compete in the global market because of their underdeveloped economies. Farmers have suffered for the last 20 years and trade agreements are death to them. Having farmers compete with the United States is like watching Brazil’s national soccer team play a local neighborhood team.

Sadly, it is because of subsidies given in countries like the United States, which gives farmers fertilizers or gasoline for fishing boats. In these trade agreements the United States does not have to eliminate its subsidies, but Central America does. Six out of 10 Central Americans live with less than $2 a day. A cow in Europe receives more in subsidies each day than a poor farmer. It’s sad but true; a cow in Europe receives $2.50 each day and U.S. cows are worth even more.

Trade agreements only result in greater inequality as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. When asked if the workers would be better off with or without NAFTA, the answer is irrelevant. The reality of the situation is that free trade agreements clearly benefit one country more than another and fairer policies must be enacted. Most importantly, agreements need to respect the constitutions, ideologies and the social rights of the people of Central America. Countries will never develop if trade agreements continue to benefit high corporate people by exploiting the labor.

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