San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Free-Trade Agreement Controversies Continue

THE Costa Rican-American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) this week issued a statement saying the U.S.-Central America Free-Trade Agreement (CAFTA) requires only a simple majority of 29 of 57 votes in the Legislative Assembly to be ratified.

In recent weeks, legislators and legal analysts have argued about how many votes CAFTA needs to be approved here.

Under Costa Rican law, the approval of laws that don’t affect the country’s Constitution require only 29 votes in favor. Reforms to the constitution require a qualified majority of 39 votes.

In general, CAFTA proponents have argued the treaty requires only a simple majority. Opponents of CAFTA have said the treaty requires a qualified majority since it will dramatically change the country by opening its telecommunications and insurance monopolies (TT, Oct. 31, Dec. 19, 2003) and require the country make significant legislative changes.

Despite these arguments, the Supreme Court has not issued a formal ruling on the number of votes CAFTA needs to be approved.

AmCham and its sister organizations in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua represent approximately 80% of U.S. businesses that invest in Central America.

AmCham Costa Rica also announced it was “very pleased” with U.S. President George W. Bush’s decision to formally notify the U.S. Congress about the conclusion of CAFTA negotiations (TT Daily Page, Feb. 25).

In related news, Universidad Nacional (UNA) in Heredia, the country’s secondlargest public university, has publicly come out against CAFTA, calling its potential approval and implementation a “coup d’ etat.”

According to Henry Mora, of UNA’s School of Economics, CAFTA is part of a neo-liberal ideology backed by nearly all the country’s business sector and conservative politicians, which attempts to impose a specific world vision in a nondemocratic manner.

Approving CAFTA would violate the country’s Constitution, Mora said this week.


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