Blog for Rural America

The Center for Rural Affairs, a private, non-profit organization, is working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities. Permission to reprint items from this web log is hereby granted, on the condition that clear credit is given to the original source of the material. If the blog provides information for a story, please let us know by sending an email to

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Central American Free Trade Agreement

- from the desk of John Crabtree, Center for Rural Affairs,
exerpts of a joint letter from the Bishops' Secretariat of Central America and the Domestic and International Policy Committees of the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops - to read the entire letter go to -

*Editor's note - although the Center for Rural Affairs has not played a role in opposing CAFTA, we have grave concerns about the impact of this trade agreement and other trade policies on farmers, ranchers and rural communities - and most importantly, we want to hear what you think about this issue - post a comment and let us know

Joint Statement Concerning the U.S.- Central American Free Trade Agreement (US-CAFTA) by the Bishops’ Secretariat of Central America (SEDAC) and the Chairmen of the Domestic and International Policy Committees of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)

...According to our pastoral vision, which is inspired by the Gospel and the Church’s social teaching, the human person must be at the center of all economic activity. Free trade agreements, such as CAFTA, should be a way of achieving authentic human development that upholds basic values such as human dignity, solidarity and subsidiarity. Whether such treaties are ethical or not depends on how these values are pursued.

If trade agreements are shaped by a proper moral perspective, they can promote human development — while respecting the environment — by fostering closer economic cooperation among and within countries and by raising standards of living, especially for the poorest and most abandoned. Human solidarity must accompany economic integration so as to preserve community life, protect families and livelihoods, and defend local cultures.

Because trade agreements are not a panacea for deep-seated problems of poverty and social and economic exclusion, they must be part of a broader agenda of sustainable development that includes financial cooperation and migration policies and programs specifically designed to lift up sectors adversely affected by the agreement. The basic challenge is to implement a framework for sustainable human development.

We believe that in an increasingly interdependent world, it is essential that economic globalization be made more human by globalizing solidarity among people everywhere. If this is not done, then, as Pope John Paul II has said, “the poorest appear to have little hope” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 20). Indeed, “if globalization is ruled merely by the laws of the market applied to suit the powerful, the consequences cannot but be negative” (Ecclesia in America, 20).

In general, the situation in which many people of Central America live is marked by poverty and exclusion, a growing gap between rich and poor, an inadequate educational and public health system, insecurity and violence, and migration caused by the lack of opportunities. We are concerned about the ability of CAFTA to increase opportunities for the poorest and most vulnerable and to enhance the prospect that they will genuinely benefit from increased trade.

To ensure that this takes place, it is necessary to frame trade policies within an integrated development agenda that incorporates measures that improve education and healthcare, include minority groups and the disabled and strengthen democratic participation. In this way, the great promises made on behalf of trade liberalization are more likely to be realized and the growing gap between rich and poor will more likely diminish. In light of the values and principles that we have outlined as well as the situation of the people, we express some of our specific concerns about the potential impact of CAFTA on our countries, especially in Central America:

Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, Archbishop of Washington
Chairman, Domestic Policy Committee

Most Reverend John H. Ricard, SSJBishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee
Chairman, International Policy Committee

Most Reverend Alvaro Leonel Ramazzini Imeri, Bishop of San Marcos
President, Bishops’ Secretariat of Central America and Panama

Most Reverend Gregorio Rosa Chavez, Auxiliary Bishop San Salvador
Secretary, Bishops’ Secretariat of Central America and Panama


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