CAFTA has passed. Seems like it warrants a post.
Frankly, I couldn’t see any reason to be against CAFTA, not from page one. The great sucking sound Ross Perot warned us about from NAFTA never happened, and the six countries involved in CAFTA don’t equal the population or economic might of Mexico all combined together. The continued whining about textile jobs fleeing south for slave labor is absurd given the trade preferences the U.S. offers places like China and Bangladesh, where the average wage is significantly lower than that in any of the six CAFTA nations (which are, incidentally, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica).
From the start this entire debate was about sugar. Anyone who tries to sell it any other way is either genuinely convinced of a lie, or knows better but thinks you don’t. Sugar beet farmers and, of course, Florida's own cane growers have been among the most active agricultural political donors for 50 years, and they give money to anybody they think will probably win. Big Sugar doesn't really care one way or the other about any issue except one: maintaining the absurdly high tariffs presently in effect on foreign sugar. If you can get foreign sugar at world market prices, there wouldn't be any sugar growing going on in this country.
Sugar gets fat subsidies from the federal government and has few threats from foreign products, since the tariffs are so high. They like it that way. They assume you don't really care. And they give lots and lots of money to many politicians every election cycle so that they can keep it that way. The CAFTA nations, God forbid it, grow an awful lot of sugar, and if we sweep away our price countrols and import quotas, why, American sugar producers will have to lower prices to remain competitive, or go out of business.
I'm sure most sugar beet farmers could find other work. And I hope Florida's sugar growers will some day just go out of business and leave the Everglades alone. CAFTA won't cause either of those to happen; actually, import quotas on sugar will only be dropped by about 20% under the trade plan. U.S. sugar growers will be fine. But they're worried about the future.