Friday, July 29, 2005

Misleading Headline of the Day

CAFTA Passage May Hurt Other Deals, says the Miami Herald, and naturally I was intrigued: how can the passage of a free trade agreement hurt other free trade agreements? Let's take a look:

After the House early Thursday passed a trade agreement with five Central American countries and the Dominican Republic by the narrowest of margins, supporters in Washington, Miami and Central America hailed it as a major win.

But the reality, analysts say, is that CAFTA-DR's slim and mostly partisan 217-215 vote raises doubts over the future of other hemispheric trade pacts that are in the pipeline, including the Free Trade Area of the Americas, or FTAA, and a trade pact with three Andean nations that negotiators hope to complete next spring.

''That it was so close, instead of an overwhelming victory, and so clearly split on partisan lines even in states such as Florida that depend on trade with Latin America and the Caribbean, indicates that the pro-trade consensus that used to prevail in Congress is on life support,'' said Eric Farnsworth, with the Council of the Americas, a pro-trade group based in New York.

And so, this means by passing CAFTA, we have made it more difficult to pass other agreements? Of course, the reality, as even the article acknowledges implicitly, is that partisanship on the part of Democrats who are intimidated by labor union threats is what makes passage of free trade agreements difficult, and that partisanship is reflected in the close vote.

That CAFTA was able to pass in such a charged atmosphere, on the contrary, is nothing short of a miracle, and a real shot in the arm to free trade boosters (not to mention, it's a good agreement in and of itself). I know the authors of newspaper pieces seldom pick the headlines, so shame on whoever it was that came up with this one...

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