Ron Paul: CAFTA Means More Government

CAFTA: More Bureaucracy, Less Free Trade
            by Rep. Ron Paul, MD

            The Central America Free Trade Agreement, known as CAFTA,
will be the source of intense political debate in Washington this
summer. The House of Representatives will vote on CAFTA ratification
in June, while the Senate likely will vote in July.

            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

            We don't need government agreements to have free trade. We
merely need to lower or eliminate taxes on the American people,
without regard to what other nations do. Remember, tariffs are simply
taxes on consumers. Americans have always bought goods from abroad;
the only question is how much our government taxes us for doing so. As
economist Henry Hazlitt explained, tariffs simply protect
politically-favored special interests at the expense of consumers,
while lowering wages across the economy as a whole. Hazlitt, Ludwig
von Mises, Friedrich Hayek, Murray Rothbard, and countless other
economists have demolished every fallacy concerning tariffs, proving
conclusively that unilateral elimination of tariffs benefits the
American people. We don't need CAFTA or any other international
agreement to reap the economic benefits promised by CAFTA supporters,
we only need to change our own harmful economic and tax policies. Let
the rest of the world hurt their citizens with tariffs; if we simply
reduce tariffs and taxes at home, we will attract capital and see our
economy flourish.

            It is absurd to believe that CAFTA and other trade
agreements do not diminish American sovereignty. When we grant
quasi-governmental international bodies the power to make decisions
about American trade rules, we lose sovereignty plain and simple. I
can assure you firsthand that Congress has changed American tax laws
for the sole reason that the World Trade Organization decided our
rules unfairly impacted the European Union. Hundreds of tax bills
languish in the House Ways and Means committee, while the one bill
drafted strictly to satisfy the WTO was brought to the floor and
passed with great urgency last year.

            The tax bill in question is just the tip of the iceberg.
The quasi-judicial regime created under CAFTA will have the same power
to coerce our cowardly legislature into changing American laws in the
future. Labor and environmental rules are inherently associated with
trade laws, and we can be sure that CAFTA will provide yet another
avenue for globalists to impose the Kyoto Accord and similar
agreements on the American people. CAFTA also imposes the
International Labor Organization's manifesto, which could have been
written by Karl Marx, on American business. I encourage every
conservative and libertarian who supports CAFTA to read the ILO
declaration and consider whether they still believe the treaty will
make America more free.

            CAFTA means more government! Like the UN, NAFTA, and the
WTO, it represents another stone in the foundation of a global
government system. Most Americans already understand they are governed
by largely unaccountable forces in Washington, yet now they face
having their domestic laws influenced by bureaucrats in Brussels,
Zurich, or Mexico City.

            CAFTA and other international trade agreements do not
represent free trade. Free trade occurs in the absence of government
interference in the flow of goods, while CAFTA represents more
government in the form of an international body. It is incompatible
with our Constitution and national sovereignty, and we don't need it
to benefit from international trade.

            June 7, 2005

            Dr. Ron Paul is a Republican member of Congress from

I don't buy Ron Paul's argument that international trade agreements are unconstitutional because only Congress has the power to regulate trade. You might just as easily say that international peace treaties are unconstitutional because only Congress has the authority to declare war, and a peace treaty would impose restrictions on its ability to do so. Since Congress can always vote to take the U.S. out of any treaty, approving treaties is not abdicating power, but delegating it. If it were unconstitutional for Congress to act in such a way, then it would also arguably be unconstitutional for the U.S. government to adopt the gold standard, since that would interfere with Congress' ability to regulate the value of the money that it coins (see Article 1, Section 8). If down the road a majority of Congress, or perhaps even a president alone (see ), wants to clear the way for more protectionist legislation, all they have to do is vote to withdraw the United States from CAFTA.

  As far as the International Labor Organization, it is a UN agency, not (as one might easily be misled into believing from a casual reading of Ron Paul's essay) a Marxist group. Yeah, I hear some of you joking, that's the same thing. Well no, hyperbole aside, it really isn't. I searched their site ( and couldn't find anything called a "manifesto," so I'm not sure exactly what Congressman Paul is talking about. Perhaps he just liked the term because it brings to mind the "Communist Manifesto." I did find a description of the agency's "mandate," which may or may not be what Dr. Paul was referring to, but if it is, I fail to see cause for alarm. Here's what the mandate says (from ):