Acton Institute Powerblog

Close Call on CAFTA

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The House of Representatives voted early this morning (12:03 am) to approve the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) after weeks of intense lobbying on both sides. The final vote was a close 217-215.

My predictions: somehow, any dip in employment (if there is one) in the next six months will somehow be linked to CAFTA by its detractors. Detractors will attempt to take the moral high ground in American politics in ’06 and ’08, and even if we experience greater prosperity as a result of CAFTA, the hills will be alive with the sounds of “Where are the jobs?” and “I told you so.”

But here’s the other side of it that detractors will not draw your attention to in coming months: Central Americans will have access to cheaper goods. Cheaper goods mean higher productivity. Higher productivity means more wealth creation. More wealth creation means more prosperity, less poverty, and friendlier neighbors. Why friendlier? Because now, Central American workers have greater access to something that is indespensible in the market, something that affirms their dignity as workers and as persons: freedom. Free trade is nothing more than individuals and bodies excercising the truth about themselves, that they are free beings and ought to come into agreements freely, without governmental impediments like tariffs.

Here’s to free trade and our success together as neighbors.

David Michael Phelps


  • There have been a series of ads running in Michigan over the last few weeks, blaming NAFTA for Michigan’s high unemployment, and intimating that CAFTA would only make the situation worse.

  • tz

    Free Trade doesn’t require thousands of pages.

    I don’t know why otherwise rational, thinking libertarians consider a huge regulation which might actually be larger than some continuing resolutions as something good because the words “free” and “trade” occur somewhere within the title.

    I am very pro-free-trade. Therefore I was against NAFTA, am against CAFTA, and against anything that opens some markets in some ways but closes others specifically designed to help the corporatocracy at the expense of labor and consumers.

    Like Hillary’s Health Care proposal, I could ask “Did you read it”, but need not bother. Anything labeled free trade must be good – Free health care, Free trade, Free lunch, all the same.

    As an example, you cannot buy an american car in Canada across the border although it is cheaper and we have NAFTA. But the auto makers and dealers got upset, so will pull the franchise from any dealer who actually engages in free trade, and this doesn’t seem to violate anything or they got some exemption.

    There seems to be a concern about Nutritional Suppliments and Vitamins. I assume you would be all in favor of an outright FDA ban if that was proposed separately instead of being part of CAFTA? There are many more increases in regulation hidden within the pages – are you saying you would favor every one of those anti-market and anti-freedom regulations individually, but they are good as a package?

    Ronald Reagan said “Tear down this wall”, not put up a lot more security checkpoints to let more (but certain) people through.