It was with some despondency that I woke up to the news that CAFTA (the Central American Free Trade Agreement) passed the US House of Representatives last night. The extracts of the floor debate that made their way onto Morning Edition did not make pleasant listening, and it was particularly disappointing to hear that our local representative, Vern Ehlers, voted for the bill.
Some of the more encouraging commentary today has focussed on the fact that the Bush administration had almost made this vote a vote of confidence in his presidency, twisting the arms of many Republican members of the house. At some point some politicians need to start standing up to the increasing tendency of embattled leaders to make any vaguely significant vote a “confidence” issue, but it is heartening that a vote cast as being so crucial came so close to going the other way.
More encouraging still is this thought at Trade Observatory that given that CAFTA — which next to the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) proposals is relatively innocuous legislation — came so close to failing, this vote may be the death knell for any harder-edged “free trade” legislation that is being considered.
That won’t mitigate the environmental damage and community destruction that is likely to follow in CAFTA’s wake, but it is hope of a sort.