The U.S. Senate is expected to vote on the Central America Free Trade Agreement or CAFTA today and that will produce a split vote from Iowa’s two senators. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley said earlier this week he supports the agreement, but Democrat Tom Harkin says he won’t support the deal.I’ve evaluated CAFTA with a genuinely open mind, having supported most major trade agreements during my three decades in Congress,”Harkin says. He says he’s concluded that the arguments against the agreement are stronger than the arguments for it. Harkin told reporters today he doesn’t think CAFTA does the U.S. any good.He says, “CAFTA fails to obtain a fair opportunity for U.S. farmers, workers and businesses to succeed in an ever more competitive global economy. They can compete with anyone on a truly level playing field. But it’s not fair competition if other countries allow their manufacturers or farms to disregard internationally recognized labor rights, and child labor protections or if those countries have lax or nonexistent environmental regulations and rules.” International child labor laws have been one of Harkin’s pet projects in the Senate and he says CAFTA would erode that work. He says reports from the U.S. State Department and the UN have documented child labor violations throughout the six countries in CAFTA. Harkin says CAFTA would take away the right of the U.S. to block goods from countries that use child labor. Harkin says he believes Republicans are bringing CAFTA up first in the Senate and not the House, because they have the votes to pass it in the Senate.
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