CENTRAL AMERICAN FREE TRADE AGREEMENT (CAFTA)
Testimony of Archbishop Alvaro Ramazzini Imaro of San Marcos, Guatemala, before the Congressional Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere:
The archbishop expressed deep concerns about the present plan. He reiterated the plea of Pope John Paul II to consider the effect of trade policies on those who live in poverty, not just on the benefits to business and economic growth.
In Guatemala 56% of the population is poor (16% extremely poor and living in rural areas). Almost a quarter of Guatemala's Gross Domestic Product comes from agriculture that employs the rural poor. "But they cannot compete against the U.S. Treasure and the $170 billion subsidies . . . in your farm bill of 2002."
The inability of rural farm families to compete against subsidized commodity imports or overcome limited access to [patented] seed and fertilizers drives the ablebodied to move to the U.S. for work or to jobs in local maquilas that lack labor rights and safe working conditions.
Archbishop Ramazzini recalled Pope John Paul's words ["Ecclesia in America"] "If globalization is ruled merely by the laws of the market applied to suit the powerful, the consequences cannot be but negative."
Some of those consequences: unemployment, reduced public services, depletion of natural resources and environmental destruction, increasing rich-poor gap, and growing inferiority of poor nations to rich nations.
Said the archbishop: "The path of trade integration laid down by the free trade agreement . . . has been presented as a wide avenue along all can travel to a greater prosperity. In reality it is a narrow path across a deep gorge that only the strongest can travel. It offers hope only to a few, and, I fear, no hope to those whom the Pope calls 'the weakest, the most powerless and the poorest.' "
[The full text may be found in Origins, Vol. 34, No. 46, 5/5/05]