Regarding Harold Meyerson's March 30 op-ed column, "CAFTA's Profit Motive":
Data-protection provisions are the norm in the United States and many other countries. In Guatemala, the administration merely sought restoration of a law the country had on its books until recently. The data-protection provision of the Central American Free Trade Agreement does not prevent other companies in these countries from seeking approval for their products or bringing in pharmaceuticals; all it does is provide a five-year period during which others may not make unfair commercial use of the proprietary clinical data that another company has developed.
Mr. Meyerson's before-and-after comparison regarding the North American Free Trade Agreement ignored the devastating effects of the Mexican peso crisis on Mexican wages soon after NAFTA was completed. But the World Bank has found that "NAFTA has brought significant economic and social benefits to the Mexican economy."
Despite suggestions that NAFTA has caused U.S. job and manufacturing losses, U.S. employment rose by 15 million jobs in the first four years after the pact was enacted. U.S. manufacturing output after NAFTA was adopted has risen 50 percent faster than in the eight years before.
CAFTA also strengthens, not weakens, the existing framework for promoting workers' rights and working conditions in the region.
As significantly, it will spur new economic opportunities and increase regional competitiveness, particularly for the textile and apparel industries in the United States, the Dominican Republic and Central America, which employ hundreds of thousands of workers. Without CAFTA and the flexibilities it provides, these jobs are at increasing risk from global competition now that global quotas on textiles and apparel have been removed.
CAFTA is squarely in our national interest, and I will continue to work for its implementation by Congress.
U.S. Representative (R-Tex.)
Harold Meyerson is correct in his assertion that CAFTA would prove disastrous for Central America and the United States.
Along with the restriction of access to generic drugs, the U.S. job loss and the decline in labor standards that Mr. Meyerson described, CAFTA also contains greater rights for foreign investors than are available to U.S. citizens and businesses under the Constitution.
These special protections for foreign investors would empower com- panies to attack basic domestic environmental, health, safety and zoning laws in the prospective CAFTA countries, including the United States. Forty-two such cases have been filed under NAFTA's "Chapter 11" investor provisions, including an $800 million case against the United States by the Canadian Cattlemen's Association for losses suffered when the United States closed its border to Canadian cattle because of mad cow disease.
Extending these protections in a trade agreement with six additional countries would be reckless and would further strip democratic accountability in economic globalization.