Opponents of a Bush-backed trade agreement are tying the pact to recently approved international food-supplement regulations, saying if the trade deal is finalized Americans’ access to vitamins and other nutritional supplements will be jeopardized.
CAFTA, or the Central American Free Trade Agreement, would eliminate trade barriers between the U.S. and nations in Central America. While proponents, including the Bush administration, say CAFTA would help improve the economy at home and abroad, opponents say the deal would threaten U.S. sovereignty and draw manufacturing jobs south of the border.
“CAFTA will only speed up the loss of American jobs and worsen the inequalities and exploitation of workers in Central America,” North Carolina AFL-CIO President James Andrews said ahead of a visit by President Bush to the state to promote CAFTA. Besides labor unions, many agricultural interests in the U.S. also are opposed to the agreement.
The trade pact has been approved by the U.S. Senate. The House is expected to vote on the deal soon, perhaps next week, and those watching the legislation say the vote could be very close.
One of the tactics used by CAFTA opponents is to tie the international regulation of vitamins to the trade deal.
The Codex Alimentarius (food code) Commission, which was established in 1963 by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Health Organization, develops the international food code that intends to ensure the safety of food, and provides regulations for global trade of food products. In a meeting last week, the commission approved a set of regulations for vitamins and nutritional supplements.
While the Codex regulations are not mandated on all participating nations, some experts believe nations on the losing end of trade disputes could be compelled to adopt them. The worst-case scenario for Americans would be the regulation of certain dosages of over-the-counter supplements as prescription drugs.
Opponents of CAFTA point out the trade agreement contains a provision called the “Sanitary Phytosanitary Measures Agreement,” which calls for signatory nations to “harmonize” their food regulations with those of the Codex Commission.
“Do you take vitamins and nutritional supplements? Do you want a synod of sickly Euro-socialists deciding which ones you can take, or whether you’ll be able to take any of them at all? If your answers are ‘yes’ and ‘no’ – then take action NOW to stop CAFTA!” wrote William Norman Grigg in the New American.
Continued Grigg: “John C. Hammell of International Advocates for Health Freedom points out that the ‘safety standards’ imposed by the Commission in essence treat vitamins as potentially dangerous drugs, imposing ‘Maximum Safe Permitted Levels’ of potency that would make them practically useless.”
Opponents believe the Codex regulations would supersede the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, which gave American consumers who use supplements certain protections against government regulations.
Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, a CAFTA opponent, says the deal circumvents the Constitution:
“I oppose CAFTA for a very simple reason: it is unconstitutional. The Constitution clearly grants Congress alone the authority to regulate international trade. The plain text of Article I, Section 8, Clause 3 is incontrovertible. Neither Congress nor the president can give this authority away by treaty, any more than they can repeal the First Amendment by treaty. This fundamental point, based on the plain meaning of the Constitution, cannot be overstated. Every member of Congress who votes for CAFTA is voting to abdicate power to an international body in direct violation of the Constitution.”
Romelle Winters is the press secretary for the America First Party, which also opposes CAFTA.
Comparing CAFTA to the North American Free Trade Agreement, Winters states: “NAFTA has been a disaster for the American people. Those who supported it claimed it would create American jobs, open new markets, expand our trade surpluses, reduce illegal immigration, improve the standard of living for all participants, and cure the common cold. Twelve years of experience show this all to be a lie.”
Though the Codex food supplement regulations have bee pending for 10 years and have drawn considerable attention, it was a proposal to regulate Parmesan cheese that caused the hottest debate at the commission’s meeting last week. Plans to establish a set of international production rules for Parmesan cheese were scrapped after hours of debate. Italian diary farmers who make the original Parmigiano-Reggiano celebrated their victory.
Meanwhile, in the European Union, the EU Food Supplements Directive is set to take effect Aug. 1. Though there is a list of 28 “safe” vitamins and minerals that will continue to be sold in EU countries, there are 200 substances that will be restricted. A last minute attempt to block the regulations this week was turned back by the European Court of Justice.
CAFTA is a precursor to another treaty detractors say will dilute U.S. sovereignty, the Free Trade Area of the Americas, or FTAA. The pact would enlarge NAFTA, the North America Free Trade Agreement, to include all of the nations of the Americas except Cuba.