CAFTA Damage Report: Despite Significant Job Losses from NAFTA, Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) Casts a Deciding Vote for Expansion of NAFTA to Central America

Public Citizen Launches CAFTA Damage Report to Track Results of Misguided CAFTA Votes

By Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) resulted in the net loss of 72,257 jobs in Texas alone.1 Despite the stark evidence of the NAFTA model’s threat to working people in his district, Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) cast a decisive vote for the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), an expansion of NAFTA to six additional nations. CAFTA eked through the U.S. House of Representatives on July 27 by a 217-215 vote. Had Cuellar opposed CAFTA, it would have been rejected on a 216-216 tie vote.

Because CAFTA is projected to expand the disproportionately negative impacts of NAFTA on U.S. Latino workers and wage levels and will impose on millions of Central Americans the same kind of damage that NAFTA caused many Mexicans, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, of which Cuellar is a member, voted to oppose CAFTA. Cuellar’s support for CAFTA was unusual since only three of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ 21 members and 15 of the House of Representative’s 202 Democrats supported the controversial NAFTA expansion. The Central American Council of Churches, numerous Central American Catholic bishops and leading U.S. Latino civil rights organizations, such as the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), urged Congress to reject CAFTA.

In announcing his support for CAFTA, Cuellar said, “My support for [CAFTA] is about one thing: jobs for the people here in Texas.” However, CAFTA is simply an expansion of a trade model that has already proven to have disastrous effects on Texas and on Cuellar’s 28th District in particular. Since the beginning of NAFTA in 1994, 3,323 workers in the 28th District have been certified for just one narrow government program because they lost their jobs to NAFTA, and this number represents only the small percentage of workers who could meet the difficult qualifications for this program. Under NAFTA, which CAFTA would expand further, Texas lost nearly one in 10 of its manufacturing jobs, or about 76,700 jobs.