August 8, 2005
CAFTA-DR: U.S. REAFFIRMS ITS 'WEIGHT IN CENTRAL AMERICA & THE CARIBBEAN'
** Papers see CAFTA-DR as a "tool" to improve security and democracy in the region.
** Observers cite great "benefits" and "challenges" to regional commerce.
** Editorialists claim countries in region may find future trade pacts "difficult" with U.S.
U.S. 'geopolitical achievement'-- Observers remarked Bush's "irrefutable triumph" with the passage of CAFTA-DR enhanced his image and the administration's policy toward the hemisphere. El Salvador's moderate La Prensa Gráfica commented that Central America should thank President Bush for making CAFTA-DR the center of his trade policy. Skeptics saw ulterior motives behind the regional FTA. Argentina's leading Clarín asserted, "the U.S. needs to control the pace and form of development in its backyard." Guatemala's conservative La Hora held that the treaty will "promote economic development...and democracy [peacekeeping], and stop illegal emigration to the U.S." Similarly, Spain's left-of-center El País alleged that the White House approved the agreement due to its "national security" implications that aim to "guarantee" democratic reforms in the region and enhance "political stability."
'Catalyst for development' or 'great opportunity to exploit'-- Papers debated CAFTA-DR's "winners" and "losers." Some outlets praised the beginning of a "new commercial era" opening the "door to new opportunities" for "true economic improvement of hard-working Central American countries." Critics expressed concern over a possible loss of "national sovereignty" and negative affects on "most vulnerable sectors." Costa Rica's conservative La República urged "complementary legislation" so that "producers" benefit while coping with increased "external competition." El Salvador's moderate La Prensa Gráfica recognized "taking advantage of opportunities" won't be easy, but added "foreign investment" will "generate new jobs." In contrast, Nicaragua's leftist El Nuevo Diario insisted "State institutions know of the devastating effect this treaty will bring," but they are "completely blinded" by their "desire to 'please' the U.S." Guatemala's Quetzatenango-based leading El Quetzalteco responded that only time will tell if the FTA will "increase poverty" or create "prosperity and well-being for all."
Future FTAs 'doubtful'-- While some dailies claimed CAFTA-DR "paves the way" for more FTAs, several Latin American writers cited the U.S. Congress' close vote as evidence that future FTAs and the FTAA will be "even more difficult." Panama's sensationalist Crítica complained that CAFTA-DR's passage is a reminder that current FTA negotiations between Panama and the U.S. have "stopped." Colombia's Liberal party-oriented El Tiempo posited, "If this happened with less threatening economies to the U.S., we can't imagine what awaits the [U.S.] FTA with three Andean countries." Brazil's center-right O Estado de S. Paulo contended that while the "U.S. is negotiating free-trade agreements with other Latin American nations," it is "leaving Brazil and Venezuela practically isolated" and "there is no possibility to negotiate a comprehensive agreement with South America."
Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888, email@example.com
EDITOR: Susan Emerson
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 67 reports from 13 countries over 27 July - 5 August, 2005. Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.
SPAIN: "Central American Respite"
Left-of-center El País judged (8/1): "These are not favorable times for free trade in the U.S. In a country with the most important economy in the world, legislators, be them Republicans or Democrats, reflect the fears of unions and business groups that have considered how emerging economies can compete on fair terms.... The majority of the opponents [from either party] have agreed that they have centered their distrust around the possibility that would intensify the Central American investments in American businesses, in order to produce cheaper goods and the consequent impact on the American labor market. The White House, in turn, has approved this agreement and found it a question of national security: to guarantee that the region makes the necessary democratic reforms and has sufficient political stability. No less important and complementary with those objectives is to assure a feeling that the Latin American population is less adverse to the U.S. than it is currently. It should not be forgotten that all of the four countries--the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua--have supported military efforts of the U.S. in Iraq.... The vicissitudes of adopting the agreement may have revealed once more the difficulty of free trade. It is easier to adorn the rhetoric of free trade and globalization than to apply it to in one's own economy, even when one is the most powerful and efficient country on the planet."
ARGENTINA: "CAFTA-DR, The Victory Of Free Trade?
Daily-of-record, moderate pro-U.S. La Nación editorialized (8/04): "There was a lot at stake in discussions leading to the approval of CAFTA-DR by the U.S. Congress. Opponents, particularly Democrats, sustained that some productive sectors, such as the textile and sugar sectors, and local employment could be jeopardized by Central-American countries' competition.... This issue became a political battle, which could have defeated the treaty had it not been for U.S. President George W. Bush's direct intervention.... According to the World Bank, the treaty will help create some 300,000 working positions in sectors such as shoes, textiles and garments. It will also help neutralize the demagogues of the region, who want to commercially isolate the region.... If this deal had not been approved, the concept of trade freedom would have suffered a big retreat not only on a regional but also on an international level. Without a minimal consensus about the advisability of trade freedom it will not be possible to compel industrialized countries to dismantle, once and for all, their agricultural protectionism, which is so harmful for developing countries."
"A Victory For President Bush"
Economic columnist Nestor Restivo opined in leading, left-of-center Clarín (7/29): "Now that the FTAA has been defeated, the U.S. is making progress through partial deals in the Americas. It has already reached a deal with Mexico and Canada, another with Chile and it has another deal in the works with the Andean countries.... [The CAFTA-DR vote] is a victory for George W. Bush, the only one of his second administration, and an achievement he will be able to exhibit at the WTO upcoming meeting in Hong Kong, because the WTO globally expresses the U.S. ideas about these new pacts, which go beyond the traditional 'free exchange.' CAFTA-DR is an important geopolitical achievement. The U.S. needs to control the pace and form of development of its closest backyard. This is why it spoke more about security than trade in this initiative.... Lastly, CAFTA-DR could speed up another debate. Now that the U.S. has reaffirmed its weight in Central America and the Caribbean, South America will have the opportunity to remake itself."
BRAZIL: "Snow And The FTAA"
An editorial observed in center-right O Estado de S. Paulo (8/5): “With his visit to Brazil, U.S. Secretary of Treasury John Snow may have helped to reinsert the FTAA in the bilateral trade agenda. According to him, the approval of CAFTA-DR may facilitate the resumption of negotiations towards hemispheric integration.... The Brazilian Ambassador in Washington, Roberto Abdenur, showed optimism and enthusiasm with regard to reopening the FTAA talks aimed at establishing an agreement between Mercosul and the U.S. in a 4+1 format. Despite such demonstrations of interest, there are still reasons for some skepticism regarding the restart of the negotiations between the governments involved in the hemispheric project. The Lula administration’s diplomacy has always created obstacles to the advance of talks.... On the U.S. side, the FTAA project is no longer a priority, according to Ambassador Peter Allgeier.... Despite all these obstacles, it would be foolish to continue to abandon the FTAA idea or a 4+1-type agreement. Moreover, the multiplication of bilateral and bi-regional agreements is placing Brazil in a very unfavorable position because other nations have obtained advantageous conditions to enter the greatest markets. Therefore, despite unquestionable difficulties, it is necessary [for the GOB] to reinsert in the agenda negotiations with the U.S.... Snow’s visit may have also paved the way towards a greater understanding in the Summit of the Americas scheduled for November in Argentina. The governments of the region should prepare themselves very well for that meeting, abandoning secondary questions and their habitual rhetoric, to concentrate on issues of more practical interest."
"CAFTA-DR And Increasing U.S. Protectionism"
Business-oriented Valor Economico editorialized (8/2): "The CAFTA-DR approval by the U.S. Congress has brought more anxiety than relief.... The outcome has fed a wave of pessimism regarding the U.S. commitment with future trade agreements. If the current protectionist spirit that has installed among the American congressmen prevails, then the FTAA conclusion will be impossible. As in the other bilateral agreements, the U.S. has conceded very little and obtained much from Nicaragua, Honduras, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic.... What has called the attention of analysts is the clear disproportion between the small economic dimension of the agreement, for the U.S., and the ferocious reaction against it.... The way the CAFTA-DR was approved showed that the bipartisan support of free-trade agreements is weakening in the U.S. The NAFTA was approved with 105 democratic votes, while CAFTA-DR had only 15.... The episode may lead the U.S. to adopt even greater caution at the WTO, which, added to the EU’s immobility, creates the recipe for a failure in Hong Kong similar to that of Cancun in 2003.... In regards to the FTAA, the opposition to CAFTA-DR represents an extra boost for the pessimists. Brazil has opposed and will continue to oppose many clauses that were accepted by Central America and Chile and are being discussed between the U.S. and Peru, Colombia and Ecuador.... The way the CAFTA-DR was approved indicates that there is little room--and uncertain interest from both sides--to expect advances in the FTAA talks."
"Difficult Trade With The U.S."
Sergio Leo remarked in business-oriented Valor Economico (8/1): "The U.S.' resistance to opening its market to the poor Central American economies shows the high level of protectionism in localized sectors of the U.S. economy.... In reality, the Central American nations’ gains are limited to the textile and footwear sectors, in addition to the consolidation of advantages already provided by previous U.S. agreements with them. The U.S. will be the main winner.... However, the CAFTA-DR is not limited to the exchange of goods. It has extended to the Central American nations tough rules on patents, trademarks and intellectual rights protection, with norms that make difficult the production of generics and make the compulsory licensing of pharmaceutical patents, that Brazil has threatened to do with anti-AIDS medications, unfeasible. It has also opened the Central American services markets to U.S. suppliers, in addition to imposing rigid restrictions on governments, which may have their initiatives to increase production questioned by American investors in international courts. CAFTA-DR includes almost all the U.S. proposals which Brazil opposes in negotiations such as those involving the FTAA."
"The FTAA Has Never Existed And Will Never Exist"
Economic columnist Alberto Tamer opined in center-right O Estado de S. Paulo (7/31): "With the House of Representatives' approval of CAFTA-DR, the U.S. has shown the political weight of its trade protectionism. As a result, any possibility of negotiation of the major FTAA agreement has been ostracized.... What we saw was the representatives’ rejection to any trade agreement with any nation, for the lobbies say that it would steal American jobs in agriculture and industry. They do not want to make any concession.... This is the first time that the power represented by [U.S.] agricultural and industrial lobbies has emerged so clearly.... The fact buries any idea of a comprehensive agreement with South America. The FTAA, which is already worn out due to Brazil’s rejection, no longer exists. As a result, we will not have access to the U.S.' $11 trillion market.... The U.S. is negotiating free-trade agreements with other Latin American nations, leaving Brazil and Venezuela practically isolated.... The U.S. is less protectionist than Europe, but protectionism is increasing as a result of political exacerbation. Even so, the fact that Brazil has exported only $20 billion to a nation that imports $1.5 trillion is ridiculous."
"Brazil And The CAFTA-DR"
An editorial commented in center-right O. Estado de S. Paulo (7/30): "With the approval of the CAFTA-DR by the U.S. Congress, six other nations have gained access to the world’s largest market. For Brazil, this is the most important aspect of that trade agreement.... Brazil is not a participant and its situation tends to worsen. As NAFTA partners, Canada and Mexico have ensured their access to the U.S. market. Chile has joined the club, and three other South American nations--Colombia, Ecuador and Peru--are negotiating their entry. Of all these markets, only Canada and Mexico have great importance for the U.S.... Each one of these maneuvers, however, increases the isolation of the Mercosul partners. Other nations of the region, beginning with Chile and Mexico, have been much faster in searching for trade partnerships with more important markets.... While other governments are boldly looking for agreements to increase trade, attract investment and create business opportunities, the GOB insists on trade diplomacy guided by Third World leaning banners.... Mercosul is stuck. The FTAA negotiations, as well as those of the Doha Round, are also stuck. In view of such impasses, other nations in the Americas are trying to establish possible agreements. Under such a scenario, Brazil is the most impressive exception due to its slowness."
COLOMBIA: "FTA: The Most Difficult Thing Remains"
Leading daily, liberal party-oriented El Tiempo editorialized (8/2): "It's enough to see the passage of CAFTA-DR [the U.S. FTA with Central America and the Dominican Republic], which barely passed in the U.S. House of Representatives by two votes. If this happened with less threatening economies to the U.S., we can't imagine what awaits the [U.S.] FTA with three Andean countries.... Washington often contradicts its rhetoric of free trade by adopting protectionist policies and criticizing other countries.... It's not time to sing victory, but to intensify efforts...to finalize the FTA to ensure that it truly results in benefits for Colombia."
COSTA RICA: "Quicklime And Sand Column"
Álvaro Madrigal opined in most influential conservative daily La Nación (8/4): The President of Costa Rica continues to pick the petals off the daisy, looking for an authentic and indubitable demonstration that CAFTA-DR is good for the country.... Could it be that the truth about CAFTA-DR was not told to the President...? Could it be that the truth came to the President extemporaneously, in the insurance chapter, for example?.... Why does don Abel, at this late date, require additional information to come to the conclusion that the treaty with the United States is good for Costa Rica, considering that it is public knowledge that after the signature he was generous with compliments regarding the negotiators and their accomplishments? If he was mistaken, he should set vanity aside and admit it to the country. Or if he fears a popular reaction...that would have a high political cost, reasons for which he has opted to buy the time needed for the affair to be defined in another political context, he should say so. President Pacheco should say that such a treaty took him by surprise as it contains numerous rules with which to comply on the exchange of goods and services, in order to impose an alienating model on society in such key aspects as what pertains to the State, public policy, investment, the environment, labor topics, intellectual property and conflict resolution, without considering the effects of the asymmetrical powers of the parties to the treaty, and not respecting the definitions, attributions and conceptions that create in our Constitution the Social State of Law starting from, in good part, the legacy of former President Calderón-Guardia, of whom don Abel says to be a fervent admirer and defender. To bury these gains, as it is implied in CAFTA-DR, will it fan the flames of social confrontation that the Archbishop of San José this past 2 August so dramatically warned against, when denouncing the Costa Rica of the excluded versus the Costa Rica of the well-fed? A sudden ray of presidential frankness could show that his move is the correct one.
"Without Fear Or Excuses"
Influential, conservative La Nación editorialized (7/29): "The approval of CAFTA-DR...is good news because it lights the economic scene, challenges the political class and the government, and consequently forces the country to make unavoidable decisions. The first decision is the approval or the rejection, assuming that the President decides to send the CAFTA-DR bill to the Legislative Assembly. The second decision is to decide to act in accordance with the law or as a reaction to what happens in the streets.... So far, the lack of leadership and presidential ambiguity when trying to satisfy labor leaders’ pressures have conspired against the public interest and have increased uncertainty.... President Pacheco and his collaborators must understand that this is not a simple political game.... When dealing with globalization, rough international competition, the accumulated problems of the country, and the growing demands of the population, each minute counts and delays are inexorably expensive.... No sooner was CAFTA-DR approved...than... a local labor leader proclaimed that the last word was to be heard in the streets.... President Pacheco must make a decision and reject the renewed threats.... The rule of law means, on this occasion, to follow democratic constitutional proceedings--to send CAFTA-DR to the Legislative Assembly for its consideration and vote, without delay--and the respect of the constitutional rights of citizens to freedom of transit, personal security and free and full access to public services. The current government has tried to avoid doing anything, but events are forcing it to assume its responsibilities."
"Costa Rica Against The Clock With CAFTA-DR"
César González opined in conservative La República (7/28): "Specialists recommend that a direction be chosen by Costa Rica in order to prevent producers from getting hurt by opening their markets. The delay in debating CAFTA-DR in the Legislature threatens to cause missed deadlines in opening the telecommunications and insurance sectors. Costa Rica is in danger of missing the deadlines set to enact CAFTA-DR and the complementary legislation that must accompany the trade agreement.... Agricultural and industrial producers are to benefit from new legislation to help them cope with increased external competition.... But some who oppose CAFTA-DR insist that what happens in the U.S. does not matter. 'The agenda of the social sectors opposed to CAFTA-DR...is maintained without alterations,' said Albino Vargas, Secretary General of ANEP, National Association of Public and Private Workers."
"CAFTA-DR’s Tortuous Road"
Conservative La Prensa Libre (7/27) editorialized: "We have been hearing of the CAFTA-DR for almost three years. Despite all this time, details of the negotiations and of the contents of the document continue to surface.... This is because many of us coincide in the appraisal of the benefits gained from more fluid trade, the importance of additional investment and the expeditious increase of exports, opening new niches to local producers, and consequently, creating new jobs. But we are also worried by the less-than-ideal connotations of this “treaty”...what to us is a treaty, to negotiators, officials, senators and other personalities in the United States is an “agreement”...its connotation includes...the impossibility of passing laws that did not exist at the beginning of the negotiations, or to enact new laws or modify existing ones that naysay what is stipulated in the famous document.... The ranks of those who oppose CAFTA-DR have been growing by not only the declared enemies of it, like the labor unions, but also by other citizens who begin to wonder if it is worth the risk to the country's independence, in order to blindly increase the inflow of money.... It will be the fundamental issue when electing the new government. For this reason it may be valuable to learn clearly and concisely what are the candidates' opinions regarding CAFTA-DR...so that all Costa Ricans may know what is in store in case one or another is elected [President]."
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: "Putting Off Ratification Would Be Blunder"
Miguel Guerrero had this to say in conservative independent morning daily El Caribe (8/1): "The Dominican Congress would commit an act of disloyalty towards the republic if it were to make the blunder of putting off the ratification of CAFTA-DR. The approval by the U.S. Congress guarantees its prompt entrance into effect with those countries that have already ratified it, such as Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.... There is no single valid reason for the Dominican Congress to file away the approval of this treaty. Even if the demands of important sectors of our society to improve the level of competitiveness make sense, it is unfair to subordinate ratification to approval of those measures. One thing has nothing to do with the other. The widely debated [fiscal] reform is an urgent national matter, with or without the treaty. The rational approach would be to approve the agreement and to proceed, without that burden, to the establishment of a major alliance based on commitment to an integral reform that fulfills the country’s hopes.... The ratification of the CAFTA-DR is, without a doubt, the first national priority."
"FTA And Fiscal Reform Can Go In Two Stages"
Juan Bolivar observed in left-of-center, independent Hoy (7/31): "Approval of CAFTA-DR...does not have to hasten the fiscal reform being discussed in this country or compensation to Dominican producers so that they can face the new challenges of competition. There is no need to panic since there is general consensus that ratification of the agreement is inevitable for the Dominican Republic under the circumstances as [it has already been] ratified by three Central American nations. As a last resort, if we want to send a quick message about the local future of the FTA, it can be approved while we leave pending the fiscal reform and compensation [package], which are necessary, since [the FTA’s] effects will not be felt here until at least the beginning of next year, when the treaty enters into force. The last hopes of those who do not support the FTA...were pinned to its rejection by the U.S. Congress.... The difficulties are not in approving the FTA but in the fiscal reform and the compensation [package] for productive sectors that would necessarily have to accompany it.... But...it is out of the question that there could be an FTA without fiscal reform, and it is this to which compensation for producers should be attached, and because of which the opposition to first approving the free trade agreement lacks force. Above all at least five months will pass before [the FTA] enters into effect and it will be years before its worst effects are felt."
ECUADOR: "Approved By A Nose"
Grace Jaramillo wrote in Quito’s leading centrist El Comercio (8/1): "It is difficult to understand the fanfare surrounding the approval of the free trade agreement for Central America and the Dominican Republic. The approval wasn’t so easy, nor are the benefits so significant.... The Central American FTA was approved by a nose and that means that the approval of an Andean FTA by the U .S. Congress is going to be even more difficult.... The benefits...depend on who you talk to, and let’s be fair. The U.S. gains a lot with this treaty.... The FTA is a matter of priorities and from what we have seen, our governments have decided to put the carriage before the horse."
EL SALVADOR: "Taking Good Advantage Of CAFTA-DR, Part I"
Columnist Rafael Castellanos opined in moderate La Prensa Grafica (8/2): "CAFTA-DR was passed; a window of opportunities that we have been waiting for has opened. It was not easy to achieve it, and taking advantage of the opportunities that it offers won't be easy either. We must seriously make our best effort not to waste this important and not-so-common help in this globalized, difficult and highly competitive world we live in. What started as another initiative of President Bush's administration--to favor the development of friendly countries with free trade, apparently without big issues--developed absurdly into an intense political battle, mounted by Democrats, to inflict a defeat for Bush. A strange mixture of allies began joining this battle as it began: economic interests that feel threatened, protectionist unions that oppose opening trade, the international left and even Europe. Such a big battle to stop a little trade treaty with six small countries. El Salvador became one of the better allies of the Bush administration and the United States. President Saca had the courage to support Iraq and to continue support as things become more difficult.... With this he managed to reaffirm and reinforce the unconditional support to Bush. But the opposition turned more violent because of internal matters. We believe that it is important to remember and keep in mind how difficult it was to obtain CAFTA-DR, to appreciate better what we now have and to know how to take advantage of it to achieve rapid economic growth. Let this not remain simply an opportunity, as so often happens in Latin America. A course of action is to attract foreign investment that will generate new jobs, technological transfer and produce goods or services for export…Costa Rica is a much more attractive country for many investors...but it has yet to ratify the treaty.... For the time being, we [El Salvador] are the most competitive country in CAFTA-DR, and we must use that to our advantage."
"CAFTA-DR, Who Are The Winners?"
Legislative Assembly member and former guerrilla leader Norma Guevara commented in left-leaning Co-Latino (8/1): "In spite of the fight launched by diverse organizations within Central America and U.S. civil society, the U.S. Congress approved the Free Trade Agreement between the United States and Central America, and the Dominican Republic, CAFTA-DR, under procedures questioned even by members of Congress. President Saca immediately celebrated and rushed to say that the enemies of democracy had been defeated....the 215 members of Congress who voted against CAFTA-DR...as are representatives of the FMLN and populist organizations who expressed their rejection through rallies, radio campaigns, and other means."
"The Good Guys Won"
Conservative El Diario de Hoy stated (8/1): "The Salvadoran government's inner circle expects to gain something for its own benefit, without regard to the consequences that the treaty has for our sovereignty, our natural resources, our workers, and of course…farmers. The promises of privatization and dollarization.... CAFTA-DR was presented by the right as a solution to unemployment, but will the unemployed have opportunities to abandon their present situation with this treaty? It is clear that this is one more lie because even medium and large business owners know that they will be displaced from their positions. And if they are the ones expected to create the few existing jobs, then who are the winners? By virtue of that treaty, the capacity to legislate for the good of our people has been diminished, conditions have been placed on Central American integration, the possibility to snatch natural resources has been placed in the hands of transnational enterprises, labor rights have been sacrificed, and the State will be charged with compensation payments when conflicts arise with foreign businesses. Thus, the country cannot win with this treaty."
"CAFTA-DR: A Great Opportunity To Exploit"
Banking association executive Claudio de Rosa cited in moderate La Prensa Grafica (8/1): "There are many challenges to be met to take advantage of CAFTA-DR: upholding ILO labor standards; respecting intellectual property; and respecting environmental laws. Anything less, could lead to loss of businesses and jobs. There are benefits of institution-building to be brought about by CAFTA-DR."
"Getting Them To Embrace CAFTA-DR"
Columnist Kalena de Velado applauded supporters of CAFTA-DR in moderate La Prensa Grafica (7/31): "Let's pull together like a family to ensure that maximum good comes out of it."
"And How Will CAFTA-DR Benefit Me?"
Pedro Roque stated in conservative El Diario de Hoy (7/31): "CAFTA-DR is here and represents challenges for all. How any individual will benefit will depend on his attitude and how he prepares for the challenge."
"U.S. Approves FTA With Central America, Celebrated In El Salvador"
Left-leaning Co-Latino lamented (7/30): "Preparation for serious competition did not start at the moment the idea of CAFTA-DR was conceived...for those of us who were only mute witnesses of the negotiations and listeners to the [back and forth], it only remains for us to wait and prepare for what comes. President Saca calls all Salvadorans to celebrate."
"CAFTA-DR Approved: Now What?"
Business columnist Luis Membreno wrote in moderate La Prensa Grafica (7/30): "We've mentioned many times before the necessity of looking for new engines of…economic growth [and]…generation of employment. We have no doubt that exports should be one of these new growth engines…nor do we doubt that the way to take advantage of opportunity of CAFTA-DR is through the spawning of hundreds and thousands of small, medium and large enterprises that are capable of exporting to the U.S. market.... Let's take advantage of the opportunities and minimize the risks so that this agreement becomes the catalyst for development that we've been seeking."
"From Concession to Compromise"
Moderate La Prensa Grafica noted (7/29): "Nothing is free.... The fundamental benefits of the agreement are the stability of such a multilateral agreement but that the moment called for unleashing the adrenaline that the country needs to change."
"We Have CAFTA-DR Now"
Moderate La Prensa Grafica editorialized (7/28): "Central America is now on another page...a date of maximum importance in the history of our development."
"Today It Depends On Us!"
Columnist Eduardo Torres commented in moderate La Prensa Grafica (7/30): "Central America should thank President Bush for making CAFTA-DR the center of his trade policy and for stressing the geopolitical importance of the agreement. CAFTA-DR is a powerful tool to bring democracy and development to the region."
"U.S. Approves FTA With Central America, Celebrated In El Salvador"
Left-leaning Co-Latino noted (7/30): "Preparations for serious competition [did not start when CAFTA-DR was conceived].... For those of us who were only mute witnesses of the negotiations and listeners to the [back and forth], it only remains for us to wait and prepare for what comes.... [President Saca’s] call for all Salvadorans to celebrate [is] fairly difficult."
GUATEMALA: "United Muppets"
Marco Vinicio Mejía upheld in conservative, often anti-American afternoon daily La Hora (8/4): "The Central American presidents, plus that of the Dominican Republic, believe to have rebuilt a 'united isthmus [region]' shaped up by 'free commerce' [but it] will neither be free nor generate social development. CAFTA-DR is a sample of what can be expected in Latin America. Sadly, it was born out of subordination by the states, economic dependency, and cultural alienation."
"How Can We Become More Successful?"
Valerio Ibarra Rodríguez expounded in conservative, often anti-American afternoon daily La Hora (8/4): "It is important that we businesspeople become aware of the responsibility and serious consideration that we give to our values. We are not going to obtain any positive results from such treaty if we continue to improvise, perform poorly and only look after our own particular interests, focused on what is good for us. It is a challenge that we have [to face] to be more successful."
"FTA Approved… And Now What, José?"
Miguel Angel Sandoval declared in moderate leading daily Prensa Libre (8/4): "The so called compensatory measures that the political parties in the [Guatemalan Congress] committed to approve do not offer the national development agenda that the country needs, least of all any measures to avoid the FTA's negative impact."
Edgar Gutiérrez questioned in influential daily El Periódico (8/4): "If Washington's political investment [we don't know if also taxpayers' funds] in favor of CAFTA-DR has been high, another issue will be to ensure regional security according to U.S. interests. But aside from this, there are several crucial questions for us: What are we willing to invest in Central America in terms of social and human capital, public and political institutions, and quality markets so that CAFTA-DR does not turn out to be bad business? How are we going to establish limits to our democratic policy so that the partnership with the United States does not result in an internal polarization between lack of sovereignty and a deep sense of powerlessness by the State in the face of social demands?"
"[Guatemala's] New Era With The FTA"
Jorge Lemus commented in Quetzaltenango-based El Quetzalteco (8/4): "The time will come when we will know if [the FTA] will contribute to increased poverty or, on the contrary, more prosperity and well-being for all. Let us hope that this change is for the better... to enter in full in the new area of modernization and modernism...it would be truly regrettable not to take advantage of the opportunities that [the treaty] will bring. Business people will learn in this new age that they can no longer seek the protection of the State to hide their incompetence, and that they will need to adhere to the rules of the global market or disappear."
"FTA, Democracy And Development"
An editorial claimed in government daily Diario de Centroamérica (8/4): "With the White House's definite support for CAFTA-DR, the United States sends a positive signal to investors and businesspeople because it gives evidence of the commitment that these nations and the most developed economy have with the economic growth of the region and, above all, with democracy."
"Bush Cares About Its Neighborhood"
Oscar Clemente Marroquín held in conservative, often anti-American afternoon daily La Hora (8/3): "If the United States truly values the strengthening of democracies in 'his neighborhood', he should understand that free commerce is only an instrument, but not the remedy to ensure the foundation of the democratic government. While we do not have the appropriate policies to combat poverty and provide people with hope and opportunities, we cannot begin to dream that they are going to favor a [democratic] political model.... In the United States, democracy is about opportunities.... Instead, democracy in these countries does not offer opportunities but only to those who already have them all and condemn to misery a lot of people who are hopeless just by having been born in a poor home. This has to change if some day we want Guatemalan citizens to totally commit to fight with their teeth and nails in defense of our lifestyle and democracy."
"CAFTA-DR Has Arrived, The Time Has Come"
Eduardo Mayora specified in conservative, business-oriented daily Siglo Veintiuno (8/2): "The most important specific challenge…is that of the stable functionality of our laws and institutions as the framework capable of guaranteeing the certainty of investments. Between the Dominican Republic and the Central American countries there is a new common denominator: the FTA with the United States. So, from here on, the objective would be to offer the [best package].... Guatemala is before a new true and tangible option for development that cannot be put at risk or taken lightly."
"FTA And [Guatemala's] Failed State"
Renzo Lautaro Rosal posed in moderate leading daily Prensa Libre (8/2): "Now, on the FTA agenda, there will be no room for trials, mediocre tests or more pilot projects.... It remains to be seen whether the FTA is or not the development plan that Guatemala wants. As never before in the past 50 years, Guatemala is now at the doors of a process that offers two options for its future: or it tries to take a new path toward a development model that, although limited, will be better than our current one, or postpones this challenge and continues in the path of increasing inequality."
Marielos Monzón commented in moderate leading daily Prensa Libre (8/2): "Social organizations stated the past week the need to promote a national agenda for development to be discussed and approved considering the needs of all sectors. Otherwise, in addition to poverty and inequality, there will also be the devastating effects of a treaty that was poorly negotiated and that, as always, supports the interests of the large transnational companies and the powerful economic sectors in the country; this is a dangerous equation in our political and social instability."
"The FTA Could Backfire"
Oscar Clemente Marroquín stated in conservative, often anti-American afternoon daily La Hora (8/1): "I believe that the United States will have to make remarkable efforts to ensure that the benefits of the FTA do not stay within the small elite circle of privileged people who always have enjoyed the advantages of development and who propitiate this abysmal difference existing between the poor and the rich in our country.... If the United States' purpose to promote the FTA is to ensure that mechanisms will make it easier to exert control over these countries, it needs to make sure that the free trade irradiates all its power to benefit the entire population. How is this to be done in a country such as ours where there is lack of effective instruments so that the State can achieve its goals and lack of leadership and institutions committed to the public good? It is truly a crucial question and a very difficult one to answer."
José Carlos Marroquín commented in conservative, often anti-American afternoon daily La Hora (8/1): "While the United States has just approved the FTA with the Central American countries, it would be a good moment to find a new partner [the People's Republic of China], whose strength can act as a counterbalance when the time comes to decide to whom to sell and from whom to buy products. A relationship based on respect and motivated by a sincere interest to help Guatemala grow as a nation, will allow for this kind of exchange with China. If Taiwan sticks to blackmailing as it has done...it will only demonstrate that its donations were not to fund programs in the Guatemalan public interest, but to buy political favors."
"With The FTA Nothing Will Be The Same"
Eduardo Blandón opined in conservative, often anti-American afternoon daily La Hora (8/1): "If the predictions are correct, Guatemala seems to have committed suicide with the signing of the famous treaty.... There is still a small hope: that predictions fail. That the ideas that some 'neoliberal' fans of the 'Free Market' [finally] hit right on target and that Guatemala takes off straight to development.... The hope of abundant employment, fair salaries and lower prices in basic food products."
Dina Fernández noted in moderate, leading La Prensa Libre (8/1): "The FTA will hold us to the legal jurisdiction of the United Sates in several areas and I have no doubt that we will be judged severely.... There is an abundance of business opportunities thanks to the FTA, but to take advantage of them businesspeople will have to work from within themselves--improving their practices to compete in the major leagues--and create a favorable investment climate to the outside world. The task of survival drained the majority of impoverished people each day.... [They are] ready to make radical decisions in the face of Guatemalan society’s inequalities that only seem to offer them one option: to emigrate."
"The Challenges Of CAFTA-DR"
Government daily Diario de Centroamérica stated (8/1): "For Guatemala and Central America, the approval of the FTA with the United States … challenges producers’ and investors’ imagination in the region to produce more and to be more competitive to reach the most attractive markets in the world. Our country should urgently approve compensatory legislation...adjusting our laws to the demands of the FTA, modernizing production and commerce, speeding up labor laws and improving the quality of our human resources.... We also ought to seek more technological development."
Luis Morales Chúa remarked in moderate, leading La Prensa Libre (7/31): "It is vital that commerce make it possible to integrate in Central and then in South America a large zone whose political, social, cultural, economic and financial life will depend on how the FTAs work; and when the overwhelming buying and selling takes place, all the American Continent...will form an economic, political and military bloc, better and more solid than the European Union and the emerging People's Republic of China."
"[The Guatemalan] Congress Has A Social Debt"
Moderate, leading daily La Prensa Libre commented (7/31): "In the new session of the Guatemalan Congress that begins today…there will be a need to discuss the necessary laws to compensate for the negative social effects that the FTA might bring, in addition to the appropriate legislation to make the most of its benefits, if we want Guatemala to take full advantage of this opportunity for regional commerce."
"The True Commitment"
José Carlos Marroquín had this to say in conservative, often anti-American afternoon daily La Hora (7/30): "Guatemala’s most important need is to generate opportunities for its people.... If Guatemala does not have the capacity to provide for a just and fair distribution of profits and social investment, surely CAFTA-DR’s outcome will be extremely positive for those who now have some economic power for their production."
Oscar Clemente Marroquín opined in conservative, often anti-American afternoon daily La Hora (7/30): "It is clear that the United States has a very definite agenda for this region and it is based on the repetition of the Salvadoran model.... The United States…is determined to avoid that, as the Venezuelan propaganda radio broadcasts say, these countries begin to realize that their true North is in the South.”
"The Effects Of The FTA"
Mario Castejón wrote in conservative, often anti-American afternoon daily La Hora (7/30): "For Washington, the FTA…is of little commercial importance.... For the White House, the treaty is an instrument to promote economic development of the region and democracy [peace keeping], and to stop illegal emigration to the United States in the medium to long-term."
"Something Worth Thinking About"
Oscar Clemente Marroquín opined in conservative, often anti-American afternoon daily La Hora (7/29): "[Guatemala’s] path has to change if we truly want to build a system that makes it possible for us to enjoy a firm, long-lasting peace.... Let us hope that Guatemala’s leaders, today so enthusiastic about CAFTA-DR and its perspectives to benefit the business sector, realize that things are looking dark for the [Guatemalan] people."
Top circulation tabloid Nuestro Diario held (7/29): "If results are as expected, each year we would need to celebrate July 27th as the day in which true economic improvement of the hard-working Central American countries was born."
"On The Approval Of The FTA"
Influential daily El Periódico observed (7/29): "Free trade is instrumental for the economic development of countries.... Let us hope that we take advantage of this opportunity to the fullest."
"FTA Begins A New Era"
Moderate leading daily Prensa Libre noted (7/29): "For the Central American countries, nothing more important has occurred since they became independent republics."
"Taking Advantage Of The Opportunity"
Conservative business-oriented daily Siglo Veintiuno took this view (7/29): "This is an historic fact that marks the beginning of a new commercial era between the countries that subscribed to CAFTA-DR and opens the door to new opportunities.... Business people have five months and lawmakers have four to prepare."
Conservative, often anti-American afternoon daily La Hora commented (7/28): "It is urgent that [Guatemala] move faster to adopt the necessary measures to compensate the negative effects that all sectors have acknowledged as a direct result of CAFTA-DR coming into effect. We don’t have much time."
HONDURAS: "There’s No Turning Back"
Tegucigalpa-based liberal daily La Tribuna explained (8/3): "Bush’s triumph gives him the opportunity to show his interest in neighboring democracies. Alternatively, the lack of a commercial framework would have created a bad situation for Central American economies. Up to now, these countries have enjoyed the benefits of the Caribbean Basin Initiative, which provides access to the North American market.... The influence that the United States has over Central America is irrefutable when taking into account that much of our economic development is strongly linked to what we do within the CAFTA-DR framework. Whatever the feelings were towards CAFTA-DR in the past, we have to recognize that it is now a reality. The agreement has passed the approval stages in the United States and will only need to be ratified by three countries to enter into force. There is no turning back. It is a reality for which the only option is to create a position of competitive advantage for the country."
Tegucigalpa-based liberal La Tribuna editorialized (7/29): "The reaction to the news in Central American countries has been mixed. There is jubilation in the government spheres that negotiated the agreement and in the industrial sectors that are already calculating the added benefits for their companies. But there is distrust within the labor unions, which believe that the FTA will negatively affect the most vulnerable sectors of the economy, fundamentally in the countryside. Political opponents are also distrustful, as is the case among the left-wing fronts in Nicaragua and El Salvador. Now the argument that proponents will be hammering home in those countries where it has not been ratified is that if it is not done, their country will be left behind. There is no doubt that a lot of investment will be transferred to those countries whose markets are part of the FTA. And even more in those countries in which there is adequate preparation for competition. When will we start here?"
San Pedro Sula-based liberal Tiempo concluded (7/29): "We now have a Free Trade Agreement with the United States and this is just the beginning. Now it is up to the politicians, government officials, industrialists, and labor to take the necessary actions to meet the challenge, in other words, to compete openly in a free trade zone. For Central America, the passing of the CAFTA-DR agreement is important and brings the hope of improving our industrial and agricultural export capabilities. It also offers the possibility of containing migration to the North and increasing sales to the vast and affluent U.S. market. This will only be possible with elevated productivity of high quality products at competitive prices. The ball is now, as they say, in the court of the Central American 'northern triangle.' Honduras has to implement innovative and effective economic policies in order to improve its productive infrastructure, intelligently exploit its natural resources, incorporate new technologies and new ways of corporate management, reform its labor laws, and prepare the workforce to be competitive. Up to now, as far as we know, none of this has been seriously considered by the political parties. On the contrary, we are witnessing an improvisation and complete ignorance of our reality, especially in economic and social issues."
Tegucigalpa-based moderate El Heraldo argued (7/29): "The narrow approval of the Free Trade Agreement with Central American and the Dominican Republic by the United States Congress represents an irrefutable triumph for President George W. Bush, who invested all his political capital in the project. However, if we are capable of capitalizing on it, in the long run, it will be more advantageous for the people of Central America and the Dominican Republic. The pretext used by those conservatives in the United States who oppose CAFTA-DR is the fear that the transnational corporations will move their assembly plants in search of lower wages and that this will cause unemployment. Meanwhile, the liberals are aligned with the social movements in the signatory countries, arguing that the agreement does not have enough safeguards for labor and that it will become an instrument of exploitation. But the truth is that, besides the fact that countries like Honduras need massive sources of employment to fight poverty, CAFTA-DR not only represents the possibility of increased foreign investment, but it will also give Honduran producers access to the most important market in the world. This will in addition generate more employment and contribute towards creating national wealth. In the end, the benefits that the people of Central America can receive from CAFTA-DR depend 100% on the capacity of their governments and producers to increase competitiveness. In other words, the opportunity will be available starting next year: it all depends on us and if we know how to take advantage of it."
"Lack Of Productivity Versus FTA"
Segisfredo Infante argued in Tegucigalpa-based liberal La Tribuna (7/28): "The Economic capacity of Honduras is so small that it runs the risk of appearing ridiculous when compared to the growing possibilities of an intense international market free of trade tariffs. Nobody ignores the fact that the American production capacity is gigantic and that our national capacity to compete is pretty much microscopic. However, a tropical country such as ours has the potential for agricultural production and exports that the United States will never have. This opens the possibility of creating or discovering some niches for new markets, which pragmatically we Hondurans will have to identify.... The legal framework [of free trade] will never resolve the issue of the enormous discrepancies derived from the lack of productivity of our society. For this reason, I have always talked about the positive and negative aspects of a 'free' market removed from the structural realities of Honduras. In any case, this will continue to be an issue for Hondurans and some time in the future one for North Americans. We will then continue to have a national problem for a long time."
Tegucigalpa-based liberal daily La Tribuna editorialized (7/27): "For the Bush administration, more than a commercial treaty that will have little immediate effect on the North American economy, what is at stake [in the vote on CAFTA-DR] is the President’s image in Latin American nations, his commercial policy throughout the hemisphere and the Administration’s agenda in Congress. If he can’t get CAFTA-DR through Congress, it will be difficult for him to get support on other issues that require legislative approval, and the Administration will have a lot of difficulties for the rest of the second term. That is why President Bush is personally negotiating with Congressmen and using all his political influence and presidential power to achieve a favorable vote. All of the recent statements about CAFTA-DR, especially from the Salvadoran president, have been made for the benefit of the undecided Congressmen. In a matter of hours, it should all be over."
"CAFTA-DR Is Not The Problem"
Saul Hernandez Bolivar in San Pedro Sula-based liberal daily La Prensa declared (7/27): "This may help explain why the country doesn't grow at the pace it should. There are obstacles: a culture of dependency that gets in the way of business, the lack of infrastructure, and a ‘lot of donated fish but few lessons in fishing.' The traditional and leftist parties, enemies of FTA, should be proposing ways to stimulate development in border and coastal areas and to optimize infrastructure, etc.…and stop wasting time on issues such as elections. The problem is not CAFTA-DR, it is the lack of vision that has stopped us from going forward because we don’t have a strategy."
NICARAGUA: "CAFTA-DR: Not Lost Opportunity"
Antonio Lacayo opined in Managua daily La Prensa (8/5): "CAFTA-DR should be seen as an opportunity that requires actions that cannot be postponed and which should be at the center of institutional decision-making.... It strongly calls attention to the fact that while Fidel Castro, President of Cuba screams to have the U.S. embargo lifted so as to freely trade with the U.S., some of his sympathizers in Nicaragua are asking that CAFTA-DR be rejected thus promoting an self-embargo of sorts. It seems that they want to ruin the economy during a liberal government so as to promote the people's discontent, thus raising the possibilities of the Sandinistas winning the elections. The diputados in the National Assembly have a great responsibility: immediately face the decision to positively ratify CAFTA-DR. To vote no or postpone its ratification is an irresponsibility for which the voters will hold them and their political parties responsible."
"Nicaragua's Blind Desire to Please U.S."
Managua leftist daily El Nuevo Diario criticized (8/5): "If the FTA cannot create real growth in Nicaragua because its infrastructure cannot handle the amount of investment and capital influx it needs, it will create serious problems that the U.S. would not make itself directly responsible for.... National producers have considered the new rules of the market as a challenge to raise their productivity, but their condition is a highly disadvantageous one because of the lack of adequate policies and financial support that could promote true development.... To conclude, the FTA ratified by the U.S. Congress a few days ago will bring terrible consequences to Nicaragua and all Nicaraguans. The State institutions know of the devastating effect this treaty will bring, but their desire to 'please' the U.S. has completely blinded them."
"CAFTA-DR Win For Central America"
Tito Sequeira wrote in Managua daily La Prensa (8/3): "The U.S. left opposed CAFTA-DR because it meant the migration of U.S. jobs to Central America...the U.S. right supported CAFTA-DR because, with Central America benefiting from this treaty and improving their economic situation, migration to the U.S. would be substantially reduced and U.S. internal security would be increased allowing the U.S. to have more prosperous partners in Central America who would then be more supportive of its foreign policy as they maintained economic ties.... Regardless of left or right-winged interests in the U.S., Central America resulted the big winner from this treaty...CAFTA-DR will not eliminate poverty in Central America, but it will reduce it. This translates into a reduction of those who vote for the left. A free trade-led prosperous Nicaragua will reduce Daniel Ortega's demagogue arguments and it will prove to the poor people--those who vote in favor of Ortega because they believe his lies--that the installation of a company in your town which creates a thousand jobs is better than 'let's take the lands of the rich and give them to the poor.'"
PANAMA: "Free Trade"
Sensationalist tabloid Critica editorialized (7/29): "The U.S. Congress ratified the FTA with Central America and Dominican Republic.... The ratification makes us look to the negotiations taking place between Panama and the U.S. to sign an FTA, that have presently stopped. There is no doubt we will have to wait until September, for the arrival of the new U.S. ambassador.... Although CAFTA-DR is not a magical solution to regional problems, specialists say it might favor private investment."
VENEZUELA: "Worrisome Isolation"
Sensationalist daily 2001 editorialized (7/29): "CAFTA-DR is already a reality. This is a victory for President Bush, a card he will show at the Summit of the Americas to be held in Argentina next November. Checking all the bilateral and multilateral agreements the U.S. has signed with Latin American nations, we can see that Venezuela is out of them and its increasing isolation is worrisome. For the Andean countries--Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia--except Venezuela, the signature of CAFTA-DR paves the way for a regional free trade agreement with the United States."
"IDB, CAFTA-DR And Panama"
Leading liberal El Nacional concluded (7/29): "President Chávez’ ALBA proposal does not seem to be doing well these days. For example, the passage of the of CAFTA-DR by the U.S. House of Representatives...closes an important cycle in the fight between FTAA and ALBA supporters, that is to say, between Bush and Chávez. This time, the winner is President Bush, whose last-minute effort was favorable for House approval. Otherwise, a defeat [of CAFTA-DR] would have practically meant an anticipated death of FTAA. Yesterday, IDB outgoing president, Enrique Iglesias, publicly backed the House of Representatives' approval of CAFTA-DR. Iglesias will be replaced by Colombian Alberto Moreno. Moreno’s triumph means a new defeat for the Venezuelan government since Venezuelan José Rojas’s candidacy to run for IDB did not receive any support. But the most dramatic and painful for the Venezuelan diplomacy has been the IV Summit of the Association of Caribbean States that will be held in Panama where 25 country members will discuss and implement joint policies for the region as well as the fostering of trade and cooperation. Both President Chávez and Fidel Castro declined to attend the meeting. More international defeats for Venezuela will keep coming."
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