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For centuries, the signatory countries of the Central America- Dominican Republic-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) have been linked by the migratory patterns of their sea turtle populations. This Comment proposes to use the sea turtle as a means of analyzing the CAFTA agreement. The goal is not simply to evaluate the potential effects of this trade proposal on sea turtle populations, but rather to examine how the sea turtle illuminates the unique challenges of protecting the natural environment in this region. In considering the challenges of creating effective environmental protections in the Caribbean and Central America, it is possible to forecast the potential impact of CAFTA’s environmental and investor’s rights chapters. President George W. Bush stated the goals of CAFTA: “Open trade and investment bring healthy, growing economies, and can serve the cause of democratic reform. [With CAFTA][,] our purpose is to strengthen the economic ties we already have with these nations . . . to reinforce their progress toward economic, political and social reform.” Although CAFTA did not draw much attention from the mainstream media in the United States, it created widespread protest in the other six signatory countries. The Agreement is similar in many regards to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) signed by the United States, Mexico, and Canada in 1994; an analysis of NAFTA ten years after implementation is a useful tool to examine the potential effects of CAFTA. Additionally, the Harken Oil case, in which Costa Rica’s efforts to protect the Talamanca coast ecosystem were challenged by an international oil company, offers an opportunity to apply the environmental and investment language of CAFTA to a real-world scenario in order to understand its potential impact on the protection of the marine environments of the region. This Comment maintains that, while CAFTA contains language that superficially addresses the issue of environmental protection, the underlying heart of the Agreement ultimately could hinder efforts to protect the natural environment in Central America.



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