The Trump administration is targeting the memberships of Nicaragua, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic in the 2005 CAFTA-DR pact. Officials in the administration are reportedly setting their sights on the three countries for reasons ranging from their relationship with China to their protection and promotion of “non-market economies.” This reasoning, though, doesn’t appear to apply to Honduras or Guatemala – two countries in the region that have their fair share of worrying human rights violations and shady government activity, not unlike the countries already targeted by the Trump administration.
“We are very concerned with Nicaragua’s move toward authoritarianism, and El Salvador’s and Dominican Republic’s questionable ties with China,” the official said. “As the United States has made clear, we will not allow our trade agreements, including CAFTA-DR, to become back doors to benefit non-market economies and repressive actors in the region.”
Eliminating the three countries from CAFTA or CAFTA-DR, as it’s best known, would not necessarily block them from selling goods to the United States, but they would be subject to higher tariffs that were in place before the 2005 agreement was signed.
The fact that the United States is turning its sights on the Central America agreement is not necessarily a surprise. Since President Donald Trump announced plans to rework NAFTA, leaders across the Western hemisphere expected the administration would eventually turn its attention to their agreements and apply similar changes. NAFTA served as a template to the rest of the 11 free trade agreements in Latin America.
Nicaragua, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic are also countries that have found themselves recently in Trump’s crosshairs.