Oxfam Urges House To Reject Trade Agreement

By Oxfam

WASHINGTON, DC&#x2014; International agency Oxfam called on US Members of Congress today to reject the Free Trade Agreement between the United States and Central American countries and the Dominican Republic (DR-CAFTA.) Oxfam believes that the agreement, in its current form, will do more harm than good and will endanger the livelihood of many thousands of small farmers who already live in poverty. <br/><br/>Oxfam joined numerous other non-governmental organizations and Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle at a press conference today, calling for the rejection of DR-CAFTA. The trade agreement is expected to come up for a final vote in the US House of Representatives before the August recess. The Senate has approved the agreement by a very narrow margin. <br/><br/>&#x201C;The case has been made from a wide range of perspectives that DR-CAFTA is the wrong trade deal to improve the livelihood of millions in Central America, the Dominican Republic and the US,&#x201D; said Stephanie Weinberg, Trade Policy Advisor at Oxfam. &#x201C;In this final hour when back room deals are being brokered, we will see whether Congress will put the needs of U.S. agribusiness and pharmaceutical companies above the basic development needs of Central America&#x2019;s poor.&#x201D; <br/><br/>The U.S. trading partners in the DR-CAFTA region, with a population of 43 million, are the poorest countries in the hemisphere and have highly unequal distributions of income and wealth. They depend heavily on agriculture for the livelihood of significant portions of their populations. These countries are ravaged by curable diseases due to poverty and inadequate health-care coverage. They sorely lack public infrastructure and, in several cases, are highly indebted. &#xA0;<br/><br/>&#x201C;Those who stand to lose in the DR-CAFTA are the ones who are already disadvantaged. Although fair trade rules and practices have the potential to lift millions of people out of poverty, DR-CAFTA will only plunge the region&#x2019;s poor into deeper poverty,&#x201D; continued Weinberg. &#x201C;Instead of establishing fair and equitable rules for trade, the agreement will institutionalize an uneven playing field.&#x201D;<br/><br/>The regional trade agreement will require these developing countries to open their markets to dumping of US rice and other commodities and forbid use of adequate safeguards to ensure food and livelihood security and rural development. The agreement also blatantly ignores the fact that US farmers receive extensive subsidies and domestic supports, estimated to be around $24 billion this year alone. DR-CAFTA imposes strict new rules that extend the monopoly held by brand-name pharmaceuticals, which will limit generic competition and reduce access to affordable medicines in the future. The trade agreement also provides special rights and privileges to foreign investors that can create major new liabilities to governments and undermine efforts to protect public health, the environment, and workplace safety. &#xA0;<br/><br/>&#x201C;No matter the spin, DR-CAFTA is a bad deal for millions of farmers, workers, and consumers in Central America and the Dominican Republic,&#x201D; added Weinberg. &#x201C;The US should do better if it wants to promote peace, political and economic security in this region that has struggled with poverty and inequality, and the resulting instability, for so long.&#x201D;<br/><br/>

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