What Is One Reason That Free-Trade Agreements Are Beneficial for Central American Countries
Work. El Salvador has ratified the International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions against discrimination, forced labour and child labour. However, it has not signed the ILO Conventions on the protection of trade union rights. As a result, Human Rights Watch reported that in December 2003, only 5 percent of El Salvador`s workforce was unionized, and even those who were unionized had little protection from a weak labor department (MOL) and a corrupt judicial system. (106) In June 2001, the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association found that the labour legislation in force in the country restricted freedom of association. (107) The Labour Code prescribes onerous procedures for the registration of trade unions, prohibits the formation of trade unions and strikes among public sector workers and does not require the reinstatement of workers unjustly dismissed. (108) Trade unions are weakest in export zones (EPZs), as factories do not have collective agreements with the 18 trade unions active in this sector. The State Department`s 2004 National Report on Human Rights Practices notes that “workers at a number of factories have reported verbal abuse, sexual harassment, and in several cases physical abuse” and that the Ministry of Labor, which is responsible for enforcing the country`s labor laws, “does not have sufficient resources to cover all EPZs”. The AFL-CIO argued that the FTA`s labor regulations are flawed because they would only require enforcement of existing national labor laws, which are considered woefully inadequate, and would result in continued job losses in the United States. The U.S. Labor Organization argues that the provisions of the agreement are weaker than the existing requirements of beneficiaries under the Generalized System of Preferences and the Caribbean Basin Trade Promotion Act, which require a country to take steps to grant workers “internationally recognized workers` rights.” (25) A number of members of Congress argued that the agreement should include a binding commitment by countries to implement internationally recognised labour standards. (26) And despite promises that THE CAFTA would compensate for the loss of jobs in rural areas by creating new jobs in garment factories, clothing exports from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala to the United States have actually decreased by $1,6 billion, or 21 %, since the year before the DCFTA entered into force. Not only has the promise of new factories disappeared, but also existing factories.
After more than a decade of DCFTA, countries in the region face hardship for workers and farmers, corporate attacks on health and environmental laws, political instability and deplorable human rights conditions. The deal was sold with promises similar to those used to advance NAFTA: new economic opportunities would be created for the people of Central America, who would see higher wages and better conditions, while no American workers would be harmed. The pact has been so controversial in Costa Rica that its implementation has stagnated for years because it was defeated in a national referendum narrowly passed after U.S. companies poured millions of dollars into television and radio advertising. Tax on corn syrup and DR-CAFTA. A controversial issue in U.S.-Dominican relations in 2004 was the Dominican tax on beverages containing high-fructose corn syrup (HCFS), a major U.S. product. The HCFS tax appeared to be a measure to protect Dominican sugar producers. The HCFS tax, enacted in September 2004 as part of a budget law that included the reforms needed to resume the suspended IMF agreement, threatened the country`s chances of being included in the DR-CAFTA. On December 27, 2004, the Dominican Chamber of Deputies voted to abolish the tax after a unanimous vote against the tax in the Senate. President Fernández signed the measure on 28 December 2004. The Dominican government must now find a way to appease the country`s sugar producers, who employ an estimated 80,000 people (mostly undocumented Haitian immigrants) without jeopardizing the country`s finances.
In 2003, there were 531 enterprises in the Dominican Republic`s free trade zones (FTTs), employing approximately 173,379 people. Employment in free zones is the second largest employer in the Dominican Republic after the tourism industry. Manufacturers in free zones are strong for DR-CAFTA. (77) Environment. In May 1997, the Government of El Salvador adopted an Environmental Law to complement existing national environmental regulations to protect the country`s remaining flora and fauna. El Salvador is also a signatory to more than 51 international environmental agreements, including the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and the Kyoto Protocol. Despite these conservation measures, some observers say El Salvador is experiencing the worst environmental situation in Central America. (105) According to this report, El Salvador is the second most deforested country in Latin America, 90 % of the water in its rivers is contaminated, soil erosion is pervasive and air pollution is increasing. The lack of forest cover has increased El Salvador`s vulnerability to natural disasters, as evidenced by the catastrophic effects of Hurricane Mitch and the 2001 earthquakes.
El Salvador`s environmental problems are exacerbated by the fact that it is the most densely populated country in the region. Aleman and Ortega, once long-time political enemies, negotiated a power-sharing agreement known as “el pacto” in 1998, which had defined national politics until now. At the end of 2004, the renegotiation of the pact included a request for Aleman`s release. In January 2005, their two parties passed a series of constitutional amendments that transferred presidential powers to the legislature and further divided government institutions as political patronage. The Central American Court of Justice declared the amendments illegal. The decision is not binding, and nicaragua`s Supreme Court, dominated by members of the Pacto party, ignored it. .