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ILRF’s position is that DR-CAFTA, because it lacks adequate provisions to protect and enforce workers’ rights, is harmful to international workers. Many supporters of this free trade agreement claim that it will bring economic development to Central American countries. We believe, however, that these benefits will not reach poor laborers unless their rights are legally mandated. Instead, the agreement will only create further competition for US investment in Central America, and downward pressure in the labor market. Central American workers will continue to be exploited in this “race to the bottom” until adequate mechanisms for the protection of their rights are established. ILRF has worked and continues to work to encourage a better alternative.

ILRF Testimony #1 and Testimony #2 to the US House of Representatives regarding DR-CAFTA’s inadequate language

The DR-CAFTA was premised in part on the belief that participating Central American countries had made progress in advancing worker rights. ILRF's research in the region found the opposite to be true: rampant workers’ rights abuses continue such as union suppression, mandatory pregnancy testing, use of child labor, and forced overtime.

Read report on widespread Central American labor rights abuses

ILRF holds that until provisions are established to protect labor rights, DR-CAFTA will only lead to the further exploitation of workers. The agreement leaves conditions ripe for corporate growth and control. It is not only workers in the manufacturing sector, but farmers as well who are left vulnerable under DR-CAFTA. The agreement has opened Central American countries to the dumping of subsidized US agricultural products, which hurts small farmers who cannot compete with artificially low prices.

While advocates of DR-CAFTA claim that the agreement will bolster Central American economies, the fact is that the majority of goods exported by participating countries already receive duty-free treatment under the Caribbean Basin Initiative.

ILRF will continue to seek workers’ rights in Central America until they are adequately established.

Letter from Members of the Costa Rican Congress to the US Congress, expressing their concerns about the Central American Free Trade Agreement.