Trade on the Trail, Part 4
The heat is on

Bush admin continues interventions just hours before Costa Rica vote

Just when you thought the Bush administration was at its most shameful, it gets even worse. Just hours before Costa Rica goes to the polls to decide the fate of CAFTA, the Bush administration released yet another statement trying to intimidate Costa Ricans into approving CAFTA.

Quote one: "If the free trade agreement is rejected, the United States will not renegotiate the agreement." This is a ridiculous statement coming from an administration that has just over 470 days left in office. The majority of the presidential candidates of both parties voted or were against CAFTA, and most are on the record favoring a change in the NAFTA trade model. Republicans as well as Democrats, independents and swing voters from across the country tell pollsters they hate the trade status quo. Come January 20, 2009, it is highly likely that there will be someone in the Oval Office who will be open to a different kind of trade pact with Costa Rica, if the country is interested.

Second, Perino says, "With respect to trade preferences provided under the Caribbean Basin Initiative which will expire in September 2008, the United States has never before confronted the question of extending unilateral trade preferences to a country that has rejected a reciprocal trade agreement. Voters in Costa Rica should be aware that many of those assuring Costa Rica of continued access to the U.S. market have consistently opposed measures that would open the U.S. market to goods from Costa Rica and other countries, whether through trade agreements or through trade preference programs. "

This is pretty rich. Several Andean countries rejected NAFTA-style trade deals, and Congress voted overwhelmingly (with the support of all the fair traders that have weighed in on Bush's interventions in Costa Rica) to extend their preferences this summer. And just yesterday, fair trade members of Congress announced a bill that would make permanent the tiny portion of Costa Rica's duty-free market access that isn't already.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who along with Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) wrote to Bush yesterday demanding that his administration cease their dishonest threats against Costa Rica, had this to say in response to the latest Perino statement:

Statement of Sen. Bernard Sanders On The Bush Administration’s Fear Mongering Attempts With Respect to the CAFTA Referendum in Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, October 6 – Senator Bernard Sanders today issued the following statement in response to White House threats regarding Sunday’s election in Costa Rica on the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

“As everyone knows, a vice president of Costa Rica was forced to resign because he was linked to a campaign of fear and distortion that was exposed in a memo.  Unfortunately, the Bush administration continues to carry out that campaign of fear.

“What President Bush seems not to understand is that his party, the Republican Party, no longer controls the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate, and that many of the new leaders in Congress have a different view of trade than he does.

“In recent days, such congressional leaders as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel, Senators Byron Dorgan and Sherrod Brown, and Congressman Sander Levin have made it clear that the executive branch of the United States does not have the authority to eliminate Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) benefits if a country rejects a free trade agreement in a democratically-held election. Cancelling basic CBI benefits with Costa Rica would require an act of Congress.  These congressional leaders made it clear that they would not support such a move, and that they opposed any linkage between CBI benefits and approval or disapproval of CAFTA.”

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