Corporate responsibility and the US-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA): are they compatible?

The global garment-manufacturing industry will confront significant changes from 2005, when the system of quotas established under the Multi-Fibre Agreement comes to an end. These changes pose serious threats to jobs in the Central American assembly plants, or maquila industry. One possibility, however, is that `politically correct' consumption could provide a niche market for firms that are committed to corporate social responsibility and the respect for human rights, and that this might even be a way to improve working conditions in the region. In this sense, notwithstanding the grave risks it represents for the very poorest, the market could serve to bring about changes favourable to working people.