News Release

CAFTA Vote Nears in House: Access to Life-Saving Medicines Under Threat


The House is expected to vote this week on the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement. A very close vote is expected.

Weisbrot is the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. He said today: “NAFTA did not create jobs as promised, and in fact we continue to lose manufacturing jobs, about 3 million since 2000. The economy has grown 12 percent since the end of the 2001 recession but wages have not risen at all. Mexico has had weak economic growth since NAFTA. … In short, the burden of proof has now shifted to supporters of CAFTA, to show why the majority of people will not lose out from this proposed agreement.”
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Director of Essential Action, Weissman said today: “With CAFTA, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, operating at the behest of Big Pharma, has imposed on Central America and the Dominican Republic a trade deal that will deny millions access to life-saving and essential medicines. Through a variety of mechanisms, the trade deal extends monopoly protections for brand-name drug companies, and delays the introduction of generic competition — the most effective means of lowering the price of pharmaceuticals. For Big Pharma, these are dollars and cents issues writ small. The region’s combined economy is about the size of Columbus, Ohio, and its poor populations mostly cannot afford high-priced brand name pharmaceuticals. But what for Big Pharma is dollars and cents is life and death for the people of Central America.”
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Velásquez is the president of ASINFARGUA, the Association of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers of Guatemala. He said today: “CAFTA is bad for many things, most especially the situation with generic medicines. The people of Guatemala, and the region, will suffer because they will no longer have access to generic medicines and generic agro-chemicals, which our farmers need to remain competitive.”

James is the global economy director of Global Exchange. She said today: “The whip counts now show the widespread opposition to CAFTA, an agreement based on NAFTA, whose failed record includes the loss of a million American jobs and over 38,000 American family farms, while in Mexico over 1.5 million farmers have been pushed off their land and manufacturing wages have plummeted.”
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Weinberg is trade policy advisor at Oxfam. She said today: “The deal-making currently underway to attempt to pass CAFTA in the U.S. Congress blatantly ignores the needs and interests of people in Central America and the Dominican Republic, particularly the poor who will be further limited in their access to life-saving drugs.”
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Russell is director of international advocacy for the group Health GAP. She said today: “Almost four years ago, under pressure from poor countries, the Bush administration signed a declaration at the World Trade Organization ministerial meeting in Doha pledging that WTO members should prioritize public health and, in particular, access to medicines for all when adopting national rules governing protection of drug company patent rights. The U.S. has broken that promise in CAFTA.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167