CAFTA Deals Watchdog Report: What Bingaman Buyout? Microscope Sought to Search for Funding

By Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch

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Washington, D.C — Faced with Bush administration indifference to his call for $1 billion1 in labor rights capacity building funds for CAFTA target countries and aid for displaced Central American farmers, today Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) revealed what many suspected: the senator wants to support CAFTA no matter what.

At the Senate Finance Committee hearing, Bingaman announced that he had received a letter from USTR Portman announcing that the Bush administration would:
• support Bingaman’s future attempts to wrestle a token $40 million out of the appropriations process each year from 2006 to 2009 to support labor and environmental capacity building for CAFTA countries;
• reallocate $3 million of 2005 U.S. Central American trade capacity building funds (a meager $20 million total) to the International Labor Organization (ILO) to produce reports monitoring labor conditions in CAFTA target countries, but the administration makes no commitment to fund such ILO work beyond 2006; and
• “give high negotiating priority” to establishing Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) contracts with El Salvador, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic, and in the interim the Bush administration is “willing to support” Bingaman pushing in the appropriations process to obtain additional funds for “rural development assistance” of up to $10 million annually for each of those nations “starting FY2007 for a total of five years, or until the signing of an MCC compact with such country, whichever comes first.”

In exchange for administration support for Bingaman’s future quest for funds to help Central America in an amount totaling less than Bingaman’s home state of New Mexico spends annually on paper clips and other everyday office supplies, Bingaman then voted for CAFTA in today’s Senate Finance Committee mark-up. This allowed the Committee to break an impasse over CAFTA and send CAFTA to the Senate floor where it is expected to have a smaller than usual margin of passage in the typically trade-agreement-loving Senate. Past Senate “yes” votes: China PNTR 83, WTO 76, Australia FTA 80, Fast Track ‘02 64, NAFTA 61)