After months of heated rhetoric and intense lobbying from both sides, the Central American Free Trade Agreement slid through the House of Representatives last Thursday with many members of Congress-including San Diego Democrat Susan Davis-waiting until the last moments to make up their minds.
Once signed by the president, the agreement, which includes as signatories El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and the United States, will eliminate tariffs and give transnational corporations more freedom to do business in the countries. It passed with a 217 to 215 vote-the smallest margin possible.
Davis said Monday that her ultimate decision to vote against CAFTA was based on concerns that its labor and environmental standards were not strong enough.
"In the negotiation, in the language, the way it was crafted, they made those standards a ceiling rather than a floor," she said, noting that extra care was taken to protect intellectual property. "Why was there a difference in the way they addressed these different issues?"
CAFTA opponents warned that its passage could have the same effect that the North American Free Trade Agreement has had-namely, a surge in illegal immigration, increases in pollution and abusive labor practices-while supporters hailed it as a way create jobs and spread democracy.