International Information Programs
May 26, 2005

May 26, 2005





**  Pro-CAFTA press cite access to "enormous market," chance for "economic take-off." 

**  Leftist papers charge CAFTA "is being imposed" on Centam "to tie us down."

**  Chavez's "Bolivarian Alternative": the left sees a model, critics a Soviet-style throwback.




CAFTA: a 'winner' for consumers, incentive to tackle problems--  Centrist and conservative dailies in Central America and the Dominican Republic mostly argued that CAFTA, while "not perfect," represented an "unprecedented opportunity" for the region to "compete globally."  "In general, it’s a good treaty," argued Costa Rica's influential, conservative La Nación, adding that "of course there will be losers and winners and that’s as it should be."  According to Honduras' liberal La Prensa, "If we don't get into the globalization trend, we'll be left out of the global market's profits."  A Costan Rican commentator, noting that "extreme positions" taken by proponents and opponents of CAFTA threatened a "dangerous polarization" among citizens, called for a transparent debate to analyze the merits of the treaty "in depth."


Agreement is 'disproportionate'--  Taking a somewhat skeptical view, Honduras' liberal La Tribuna said it was easy to understand, "with so many scandals on the home front," why the Central American presidents had gone to the U.S. to lobby for CAFTA:  "The demonstrations against CAFTA over there are smaller, nothing compared with the ones here in the region."  Nicaragua's leftist national daily El Nuevo Diario charged that free-trade agreements respond "to the interests of transnational capital" seeking "the absolute liberalization" of trade.  The paper alleged the U.S. "wants to turn Nicaragua into one big free-trade zone...with great reserves of cheap, semi-literate labor" to help foreigners export their products at cheaper prices.  Managua's center-right La Prensa countered that those were the arguments of the "retrograde left" like Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega and that, through CAFTA, "Central America and Nicaragua particularly will stop being viewed as a poor and backward zone and could be considered as a place of great potential for economic development."


'ALBA' praised, damned--  El Nuevo Diario, observing that "America is for the Americans, not for the North Americans," contrasted U.S.-sponsored FTAs with the "Bolivarian Alternative" (ALBA) put forward by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, saying the latter "puts emphasis on the fight against poverty and social exclusion."  Costa Rica's La Nación concluded that ALBA, as an organization "dedicated to encourage trade...between nations but not between private entrepreneurs," harkened back to the Cold War, Soviet-sponsored COMECON.  That organization "failed at exactly what Chávez intends to do:  trade without competition," achieving "a business model where everybody was losing."  Brazil's center-right O Estado de S. Paulo, referencing both CAFTA and the FTAA, noted with some chagrin that the policy of the GOB was "to lose trade opportunities that other more prosaic governments do not reject," just to show it is not manipulated by "the imperialist superpowers"; the country therefore is losing out as other Latin countries gain access to the U.S. market through free-trade agreements.


Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888,


EDITOR:  Steven Wangsness


EDITOR'S NOTE:  Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment.  Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion.  Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet.  This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government.  This analysis was based on 32 reports from 10 countries May 11-24, 2005.  Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.




BRAZIL:  "CAFTA And Brazil"


Center-right O Estado de S. Paulo editorialized (5/19):  “To lose trade opportunities that other more prosaic governments do not reject--this is the way chosen by the Brazilian authorities to show that they are not subject to the control and manipulations of the imperialist superpowers....  At present, FTAA is losing its importance, and it is hard to say for how long....  Certainly President Lula and his international strategists are not sad about it....  Faced with the advancement of agreements between the U.S. and Latin American and Caribbean countries, the Brazilian government usually responds that it is also multiplying trade agreements in the hemisphere.  This response indicates a notable failure of evaluation....  One cannot imagine that Brazil is disputing with the U.S. over access to Latin American markets.  The relevant fact is something else:  while Brazilian diplomacy spends energy on less economically profitable initiatives, other Latin American countries are gaining access to the U.S. market.”


COSTA RICA:  "The President’s Sophistry"


Dennis Meléndez wrote in influential, conservative La Nación (5/23):  "The Central American and Dominican Republic presidents took part in a CNN program during their recent Washington, D.C. trip.  President Pacheco’s part was well played.  His remark about yucca in Manhattan was right and shows he understands what absolute advantage in trade is.  However, he repeated his requirement that the fiscal (tax) plan bill be approved previous to his sending the CAFTA bill to the Legislative Assembly.  Pacheco’s argument is based on the following syllogism:  if Costa Rica joins CAFTA and the fiscal reform are not approved previously, all the benefits will accrue only to the rich.  This is sophistry because even though fiscal health is indispensable for a just wealth distribution, the fiscal reform is only one step in the right direction.  The tax policy can be a good instrument for the development benefits to accrue to the poorest, but if it is not accompanied by a congruent policy of efficiency in spending, the distributing effects will be annulled; they could even be reverted.  There is nothing in the fiscal reform bill to make public spending more efficient.  It is absolutely incorrect that the benefits from foreign trade benefit the rich first and only.  On the contrary, if consumer goods prices are reduced and new jobs are created, it is profitable for the poor.  It is not necessary to have a fiscal policy to reach these objectives."


"CAFTA And Polarization"


Conservative La República held (5/23):  "We have seen in Costa Rica recently that trade negotiations are not simple and that there could be many implications for foreign trade, economics and politics.  If countries arrive at treaties with no internal consensus, or if the negotiations have been badly managed or are not transparent, there is no doubt but that there will be a dangerous polarization.  That has tended to be the situation in Latin America.  In Costa Rica it is obvious that the extreme positions in favor or against CAFTA have left the citizens behind and the debate is in many cases more emotional than rational.  And it is obvious that CAFTA has very clear geopolitical objectives and is a step on the ladder of the U.S. trade policy, where some sectors have found themselves polarized.  There are some who consider that if the U.S. Congress does not approve CAFTA it would be fatal because it would send a disheartening message to those who favor the FTAA, leaving a dangerous return to protectionism, which would make more difficult the signing of future agreement in other places....  It would be worthwhile for Costa Ricans not to view CAFTA in a polarized dimension, and make use of the time during the U.S. debate, to analyze in depth this treaty and think of taking it before the population in a referendum."


"A Return To Reason"


Influential, conservative La Nación editorialized (5/18):  "Following the unfortunate meeting of labor unions and other groups on 14 April last, the second chapter against CAFTA was ready for stage center throughout the country, according to labor leaders.  Thus, the 'great national march' scheduled for Monday 16 May that would have international repercussions according to the organizers, was a failure brought about by the realities of the present.  The claims by CAFTA detractors that CAFTA is a conspiracy against the interests of the Costa Rican people was not believed, and the participation in the march was scarce.  The claim offends the intelligence of Costa Ricans and casts doubt on the intelligence of the march organizers.  Our purpose must be to allow CAFTA to be channeled in the proper procedures of the rule of law, in an atmosphere of liberty, transparency and free debate of ideas, not setting aside, of course, the reforms that the country has demanded for many years.  The president of the Republic must change his attitude.  His fears and contradictions have caused grave damage to the country."


"CAFTA Is A Good Treaty"


Jorge Guardia-Quirós commented in influential, conservative La Nación (5/17):  "We know CAFTA is not perfect.  It has problems of legal and technical order, and the treatment of some agricultural products has not pleased everyone.  But in general, it’s a good treaty. Of course there will be losers and winners and that’s as it should be.  The losers (not many, one hopes) should be those enjoying protection or a privilege that allow them to sell goods more expensively; the winners should be the consumers that can hope to buy better and cheaper goods.  I’m not impressed by the argument that since the U.S. government subsidizes its agricultural products, thus able to sell cheaper than us, that we should not buy from them.  On the contrary, the more the subsidy, the cheaper the goods we buy and we increase our available income that way.  But if the consumers are forced to buy more expensive and sometimes worse local goods, life is made more difficult, especially for lower-income consumers.  The error is to insist in producing goods that are subsidized elsewhere in the world.  Neither am I impressed by the argument that CAFTA should not be ratified until other economic and social problems are solved, problems that have gone unsolved for many years.  CAFTA should be approved as an incentive to deal with these unsolved problems.  There is much left to solve, such as the CAFTA complementary agenda, including the opening of insurance and telecommunications, aspects in which we are behind."


"United States And CAFTA"


Conservative La República editorialized (5/17):  "It seems clear that CAFTA is key for pushing determined internal policies and U.S. strategic geopolitical objectives in Latin America and perhaps even farther afield.  The U.S. administration has said that many of these goals depend on CAFTA receiving U.S. Congressional approval.  One of these objectives is to open new markets to better deal with a severe trade deficit....  The U.S. wants to complete FTAA, at present standing still before the new correlation of political forces in Latin America....  The danger for the Bush administration is that a CAFTA failure may bring into question their entire foreign trade policy of negotiation of trade agreements.  A CAFTA failure would be the coup de grâce for an FTAA the U.S. wants to revive through bilateral agreements or with trade groups.  It is obvious that the Bush administration will attempt by all means to get the necessary votes in the U.S. Congress, which will not be easy given the strength and political and economic resources of the opposition.  In such a scenario, it is beneficial for Costa Rica to take the time necessary to study in depth with all members of society this treaty that threatens to divide us into a dangerous socially polarized situation.  Perhaps there will be enough time to implement the referendum, so that CAFTA is decided by ballot boxes and not by protests."


"FTAA And America's Bolivarian Alternative Face To Face"


Influential, conservative La Nación concluded (5/15):  “The Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), a project encouraged by the U.S., is facing a troublemaker and tricky adversary:  America’s Bolivarian Alternative (ALBA), created by Hugo Chavez (Venezuelan President) with Fidel Castro’s complicity.  It is probable none of the alternatives take flight.  The differences between both projects were established during a recent meeting that took place in Havana, Cuba.  ALBA wouldn’t serve capitalism, like FTAA.  It would be an organization dedicated to encourage trade and financial transactions between nations but not between private entrepreneurs.  Chavez is one of the last Dependence Theory’s believers.  What Chavez ignores is that the struggle between FTAA and ALBA occurred in the past with other names and in another continent (referring to the Cold War and the Marshall Plan the U.S. launched in Europe in 1940s).  The Soviet Union rejected the Marshall Plan and to compete created the Economic Mutual Help Council.  But the Council failed exactly at what Chavez intends to do:  trade without competition, without creativity, without businessmen determined to succeed.  For the first time in history they achieved a business model where everybody was losing.  When the Soviet Union disappeared all the members ran, without hesitation, to the market and competition.  They already knew the fair terms of socialist exchange.  That was the mistake."


"Ambivalence And Dirty Tricks"


Juan Carlos Perez Herra opined in conservative La República (5/14):  "President Pacheco ambiguous position relating to CAFTA is not surprising, because this has been his style, especially with thorny topics.  His strategy is to face conflict according to the dynamic imposed by the facts.  President Pacheco is waiting for the U.S. to make a decision, and then he will make his.  We should remember that being against CAFTA and the fiscal reform is an electoral strategy, so citizens have in front of them a universe of well-calculated ambivalences and dirty tricks."


DOMINICAN REPUBLIC:  "The Exchange Rate Surcharge"


Economist and diplomat Bernardo Vega wrote in centrist El Caribe (5/16):  “The contents of both CAFTA-DR as well as the IMF agreement predict that the fiscal surcharge ['comisión cambiaria' or exchange commission] will be eliminated in the next few months.  If CAFTA-DR is approved, we would be forced to eliminate immediately the surcharge on imports from the U.S. and Central America, and that roughly means half of what the government collects in this way.  Even though in theory our government could continue applying it, and the U.S. could take us before an arbitration panel established in the treaty (as Honduras did at the WTO)--something that would take months--in practice, Washington’s political pressure would force us to swiftly remove it.  The Dominican private sector, which is demanding the total removal of that surcharge, will then have a strong ally once the FTA enters into force.”


"Critical Crossroads"


Diplomat Roberto Alvarez stated in centrist El Caribe (5/16):  “The public and private sectors must grasp the present and look the future square in the eyes in order to do something about CAFTA-DR....  In the end, a clairvoyant leadership and the social support needed to do away with the mental chains that today paralyze social change are the only factors that will eliminate the situation in which we find ourselves.”


"CAFTA-DR According To The World Bank"


Economist Pedro Gil Iturbides observed in left-of-center, independent Hoy  (5/16):  “The World Bank report is a proclamation.  It seems odd that a summary of its conclusions was released at the headquarters of the entity in Washington while the presidents of the countries involved in CAFTA were in the city....  Those who wrote the report do not belong to the Maoist side of the World Bank.  Most probably, that tendency has never existed in that entity.  Nor are they associated with extremist fanatics from Asia Minor.  They are scholars of several nationalities who wish to avoid the chance that the free market succumbs before it achieves its prospective goals.  They released the report because they yearn for a free, open, multiple, large market that is characterized by trade among contracting parties.  So let’s forget our illusive hopes and stick to reality....  That is why people like me hope the U.S. Congress initiates endless debates to extend the period of discussion.  This amount of time would perhaps help us to know first and to understand later the World Bank report, which will have already been released. Because the free trade agreement to which the World Bank refers is not the one proclaimed and defended by [Ambassador] Hans Hertell.”


"FTA:  Betting on Our Destiny"


Independent Listin Diario had this to say (5/12):  “It is truly a shame that the political parties, which bring together a good percentage of the population...have remained 'oblivious' to the importance of the free trade agreement....  When the president of the Republic visits Washington, together with the rest of the Central American presidents, to promote the approval of the accord in the U.S. Congress, he does so fully aware that his own country ignores the magnitude or the impact--good or bad--that CAFTA-DR will have on the country’s economy....  When the president says that if the treaty is not approved, the Dominican economy will eventually collapse, he does not offer...another alternative.”


"Most Dominicans Unaware"


Independent Listin Diario editorialized (5/12), regretting that most Dominicans are unaware of the implications of CAFTA-DR although the country's future is "at stake."  It noted that most Dominicans have only a vague notion about this agreement, while political parties have not participated in the debate, which has been solely promoted by business groups.  (FBIS summary)


ECUADOR:  "The Government Does Not Send A Clear Signal"


Leading center-right El Universo observed (5/23):  “The first questions the present government should respond to is if it is interested or not in the Treaty, and in order to respond to that question it should have a clear proposal or plan for the FTA to fulfill a function.  It seems it does not have one, just like the previous government, or at least it has not made it public.  That lack of clarity in the government causes uneasiness not only in national businessmen, but also in their Andean and U.S. counterparts....  Ecuador’s presence in the Andean coordination meeting in Colombia last week seems to indicate that there is indeed interest in participating, but the government’s conviction that an FTA will be of some use is still lacking.”


"FTA, More To It Than A Treaty"


Jaime Bejarano argued in Quito’s leading centrist El Comercio (5/17):  “The Ecuadorian signing of an FTA, without submitting the text to an exhaustive national debate, would not be patriotic because this commercial treaty is more than a simple treaty, it is perhaps the country’s perpetual tie to dependency on the only world power and to its mercantile hegemony.”


"Change In The Negotiating Team"


Quito’s center-left Hoy editorialized (5/17):  “The replacement of the negotiating team, in view of the fact that there are only two rounds left, leaves the country in a vulnerable situation, weakens the continuity of a process that cannot be halted, and sends a negative signal for an accord that implies a commitment of state, not a commitment of the regime in power.”


"Political Decisions And The FTA"


Quito’s leading centrist El Comercio argued (5/16):  “President Palacio’s government took a political detour to address the most difficult issue in the national agenda, the negotiation of a Free Trade Agreement with the United States.  The former government had failed considerably in managing this controversial issue, removing it from a serious and public debate....  It is regrettable that [this] difficult issue, subject to domestic ideologies, will be faced by a team with a political component....  Ecuador may be relaying the message that an FTA is a secondary issue, one that will probably [not succeed] because the last step will be [the consideration] by a Congress with no [appreciation of the matter] or a referendum distinguished by populism.”


EL SALVADOR:  "Unprecedented Opportunity"


San Salvador's independent, conservative La Prensa Grafica concluded (5/11) that CAFTA constitutes an "unprecedented opportunity" for Central America within the globalization scheme, adding that not only the treaty itself is at stake, but also the Bush administration's globalized trade opening process.  The same daily on 13 May described CAFTA-DR as a "geopolitical development strategy" that is important to maintain regional stability, adding that it is a "prize" for the democratic region and that it is "important" for U.S. domestic security policies.  (FBIS summary.)


GUATEMALA:  "Pressure Groups Threaten Democracy"


Adrian Zapata wrote in conservative, business-oriented Siglo Veintiuno (5/19):  “Bush is worried because pressure groups, principally from the left, could put at risk democratic stability in Central America.... The U.S. Secretary of Commerce at a conference of the Council of the Americas...indicated as 'communists' those people opposed to CAFTA.  The Catholic Church in Guatemala is communist??!!!...  With these visions, democracy should serve only those whose interests are or coincide with the traditional dominance in the area.  For them, the democratic regimes are weak if they allow leftist parties power or the possibility that the popular organizations can pressure the state....  The left can exist, but without real opinion to governing....  The civil society organization of conservative orientation, the means of communication align with the business sector, and they are what pressure the state, congratulations to freedom of thought.  If eventually the rightists take to the street to protest what they consider violation of their interests, congratulations to the right of social mobilization.”


"The Meeting Of The Presidents"


Most influential daily Prensa Libre had this to say (5/13):  “Reports coming from Washington highlight the importance granted to the discussions on CAFTA, but they do not indicate if the Central American presidents had the opportunity to talk with Mr. George W. Bush about other highly important issues to improve economic and social conditions in...(Central America)....  Among the topics important to Central Americans are, in the first place, all migration issues....  All measures taken by the U.S. government that affect legal or illegal immigrants in any way present a risk to the economy of the region and can become a vicious cycle:  the new restrictions will impair or diminish the flow of incoming foreign currency, which in turn will produce an increase in migrations (to the U.S.).....  Nothing is known about conversations by the Central American presidents on common problems (to the region), such as the high increase in common crime, and activities related to narcotraffic.”


HONDURAS:  "Our Productive Capacity And CAFTA"


Gautama Fonseca opined in Tegucigalpa-based liberal daily La Tribuna (5/16):  “A lot of people don’t know about the Central American Economic Integration because it has been handled behind closed doors, the same reason why only the economic ministries of the governments of the region and some private businesses have participated in it.  It took place in Guatemala in the '60s while discussing the treatment for some ‘sensitive’ products.  Guatemala refused to recognize the origin of Salvadoran spark plugs.  El Salvador did the same with Guatemalan tires.  As a consequence, both delegations discussed their differences extensively and intensively until they resolved to put it to an end.  They became celebrities in the Integration.  Both countries described the reality of the majority of the so-called Central American industries and the truth finally surfaced after being hidden due to pressures from the private sector.  These men are so special that they are sure that with CAFTA the democracy and liberty will be brought back to life in Central America.  But, as they should have known, neither of them exists because there has been no interest in giving them life.”


"Offensive For CAFTA"


San Pedro Sula-based liberal daily La Prensa concluded (5/13):  “The presidents of Central America and the Dominican Republic have carried out an intense campaign in the U.S. to ensure the ratification of CAFTA by the U.S., and to do so they have visited several U.S. cities to meet with businessmen, legislators, labor and civic leaders.  President Maduro is confident that this agreement will be ratified by the U.S. because, according to him, ‘It is about much more than business, it represents a tool to ensure security, stability, transparency, equality and democracy in the region.'  Here in Honduras, the light assembly factories have been the most outspoken supporters of CAFTA, which will enable them to build more industrial parks to attract more foreign textile assembly corporations, which will surely take advantage of CAFTA to export to the U.S. without paying any duties.  The truth in all this is that, if we don’t get into the globalization trend, we’ll be left out of the global market’s profits and there will be no market for our agro-industrial production.  In other words, if we underestimate the size of the wave, we’ll be wiped out by a tsunami.”


"One Foot Out"


Tegucigalpa-based liberal daily La Tribuna took this view (5/13):  “With so many scandals on the home front, we understand the reasons why President Maduro is traveling everywhere : from The Vatican, to Japan, to South America, and now he’s in Washington lobbying for the ratification of CAFTA.  The Central American presidents are better off in Washington.  The demonstrations against CAFTA over there are smaller, nothing compared with the ones here in the region. Thank God that none of demonstrations have been long enough to put at risk the government’s stability, as in Ecuador and other southern countries.  Presidents Enrique [Bolaños] and Abel [Pacheco] have the most uncomfortable task of convincing the North American legislators, even though they haven’t convinced their own congresses.  Perhaps Mr. Enrique is the happiest of them all, because it helps him to distract him from the continuous opposition which has him with one foot in and another foot out.  In conclusion, the presidential tour seems to be fruitful because after the achieved success, the people must wait for the messengers return so they can receive them with ‘open arms’ and anxiously hear their anecdotes.”




San Pedro Sula-based liberal daily La Prensa remarked (5/13):  “The lobbying efforts made by the presidents of Central America and the Dominican Republic in Washington to get the ratification of CAFTA have been somewhat successful, but still there are some doubts if it will be ratified.  The firm position of President Bush for CAFTA is evident, and it has been strengthened by a recent statement of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, one of the most influential officials in the Bush administration, who said that CAFTA ‘will be the starting point of a new era of cooperation among our countries and prosperity in the region.’  The concern of the Central American presidents, as well as the U.S. government, to ensure the ratification of CAFTA by the U.S. Congress is understandable, although their anxiety is not shared by some Congressmen in the U.S. and Central America.  We must be aware that CAFTA is not a panacea which will solve all problems in Central America, much less in Honduras.  However, we need this trade agreement, considering it as an opportunity and a challenge we should face.”




Center-right national daily La Prensa editorialized (5/24):  "The FTA is so that Nicaraguan products, as well as from other Central American countries, that are not produced in the U.S. can enter that huge market freely.  'The sky's the limit' said a Nicaraguan who sells Nicaraguan cheese there.  And in the case of Nicaraguan products that do have to compete directly with U.S. products, the key to success will be that ours can be more competitive in price and quality.  The retrograde left that Daniel [Ortega] represents wants the country to live in eternal backwardness and that the people of Nicaragua live in misery or else who would feel anything with his speeches of protection of the poor and his cursing of the 'bad wealthy people' (because he is one of the 'good wealthy people')?  Through this FTA Central America and Nicaragua particularly will stop being viewed as a poor and backward zone and could be considered as a place of great potential for economic development, the creation of wealth, promotion of development and prosperity for its people."


"The Bolivarian Alternative"


Leftist national daily El Nuevo Diario had this to say (5/23):  "ALBA (the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas) contemplates 49 agreements signed by Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro....  On this side the U.S. doesn't act so as to gain some cents from us, but rather to stop a plague, the virus that can do away with their otherwise immune system.  To do it and stop the propagation of that virus, they use all their power--mass media, threats, blackmail, intimidation and cowardly policies and brute force.  We must broaden our horizons....  U.S. politics is too predictable and not too intellectual....  As Al Pacino said in the Godfather, we have to tell the American Embassy:  'we are going to buy you out.'"


"Not For The North Americans"


Leftist national daily El Nuevo Diario also commented (5/23):  "While the FTAA responds to the interests of transnational capital and seeks the absolute liberalization of commerce of goods and services and investments, ALBA puts emphasis on the fight against poverty and social exclusion and it expresses the interests of the Latin American people....  Through the FTAA the U.S. wants to turn Nicaragua into one big free-trade zone with some small areas left for tourism, so as to benefit their retired and as a paradise for their pedophiles.  One big country full of waiters and seamstresses, with great reserves of cheap, semi-literate labor which will help the farming and meat-producing foreigners export their products at a cheaper price.  An alternative to Nicaragua's destroyed economy is to get close to the South American community, a rising market thanks to the social policies promoted by the Latin American left that provide greater acquiring power to the popular classes....  Today, the ghosts of Bolivar, Martí and Sandino walk on our American soil and they talk to us with new voices.  They are telling us that another America is possible.  They remind us that 'America is for the Americans,' not for the North Americans." 


"Reasons To Renegotiate DR-CAFTA"


Epsy Campbell Barr, a Costa Rican deputy, wrote in center-right national daily La Prensa (5/17):  "As small countries, totally dependent of the trade with the U.S. as the main commercial partner, the negotiation for this treaty should have been based on a strong regional position.  The regional differences, the existing lagoons in the historic process of Central American integration and the different interests didn't allow a systematic regional cohesion that could have led to a unified position.  Added to this is the fact that the U.S. negotiators used the precept:  divide and conquer, promoting bilateral negotiations throughout the negotiation of the treaty.  The negotiation should have been based not only on the recognizing of existing asymmetries, but it should have transcended into expressing these asymmetries in commercial terms."


"It Is Not So Hard To Understand Why The Sandinistas Oppose CAFTA"


Jorge Bolaños, son of Nicaraguan President Enrique Bolaños, observed in leftist national daily El Nuevo Diario (5/17):  "CAFTA allows Nicaragua and its Central American partners to start their economic take-off to move from poverty to well-being. CAFTA gives us access to an enormous market that can be used as a real axis for development....  CAFTA also attracts foreign investment towards Nicaragua because from here they can import to the United States.  Without CAFTA, that investment will not find Nicaragua as an attractive place to invest in.  CAFTA would make Nicaragua attractive to investors with great capital which would in turn create the workplaces that can generate the riches Nicaraguans hope for.  Without those investments, Nicaragua will not achieve the economic take-off it needs.  Of course, the Sandinistas need to oppose CAFTA, because they can only flourish if Nicaragua is impoverished, where their old tactics of chaos and violence are effective and can guarantee its permanence in power."


"The Asian Giant, FTAA And Our Left"


Leftist national daily El Nuevo Diario took this view (5/15):  "The tendency of the world economy is gearing towards the fact that the U.S. (with its war in Iraq, its meddling in internal affairs of other countries and its economic crisis) is getting bumped out of being the first economic power of the world.  In fact, people are saying that in the next 10 years the People's Republic of China might turn into the emerging economic power.  China is a friend of leftists organizations and projects:  why don't our leaders think and turn their eyes to China?  Why are they still talking about the U.S. market, of about 250 million consumers, and not the Chinese market of about 1.3 billion class A consumers?...  This phenomenon is worrying the U.S. so it wants to, in the first place, tie us down so we don't go with other partners (say China).  Secondly, it wants this Central American strip of consumers, small as it may be.  We need to insist this is not an agreement, nor is it free.  It is imposed on us and it is disproportionate.  And for that matter, it is not even about trade."


VENEZUELA:  "Venezuela 2, USA 0"


Former Chávez coup comrade and former Zulia state governor, Francisco Arias Cárdenas, commented in leading conservative daily El Universal (5/16):  “We all must celebrate the triumph at the OAS.  It shows us how times are changing.  The triumph over the FTAA is really important.  Americans have been constrained to an economic confederation with the small countries of Central America, which is not a guarantee of sustainability, either.  Betting on the defeat of the government is betting on the defeat and misery of our own country.  The small, brown-skinned and partial winner defends us his way.  It would be mean to bet on the big blond one who tramples us down.”




CHINA (HONG KONG SAR):  "Export Restrictions In Exchange For A Stable Currency Rate"


The mass-circulation Chinese-language Apple Daily News remarked (5/18):  "The U.S. government announced it would impose new quotas on three categories of Chinese textile imports.  As the Bush administration has always waved the flag of free trade, why did it choose to introduce a protectionist policy by re-imposing textile quotas?  The answer is that the Bush administration hopes to use quotas on China imports in exchange for Congressional support for the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), which Congress strongly opposes.  One reason for this opposition is that many Congressmen believe the Sino-U.S. trade imbalance should be at the top of the U.S. trade agenda....  In the face of U.S. pressure, China must make appropriate adjustments to its policy to avoid a U.S.-China trade war.  From this angle, it is not difficult to understand why China--despite having fair grounds to appeal U.S. textile trade restrictions--still plans to restrict its exports.  This may alleviate problems in the bilateral trade relationship.  If China does not take action, it may face strong pressure from the U.S., especially on the yuan exchange rate issue."


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