In a ceremony at the White House on Tuesday, President Bush signed the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). The treaty with six trading partners is estimated to enhance U.S. agricultural exports by $1.5 billion when fully implemented.
In attendance were the six presidents of Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. The agreement removes trade barriers with the six countries and opens up the region for U.S. goods and services.
"Right now, Central American goods face almost no tariffs when they enter the United States. By contrast, U.S. exports to Central America still face hefty tariffs there. CAFTA will end these unfair tariffs against American products and help ensure that free trade is fair trade," Bush said during the signing of the bill.
President Bush said "that this agreement will increase U.S. exports to the region and bring new prosperity to citizens of our hemisphere who have not known it."
"The formal signing," says National Corn Growers Association President Leon Corzine, "is the culmination of a tremendous effort by corn growers understanding the benefits of trade with the CAFTA-DR countries." Corzine, who attended the signing adds, "We have talked about the future of agriculture and the impact of this agreement on future generations. I was extremely proud and honored to represent our grassroots because their effort is what truly made this signing possible."
U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman commended Bush for his "bold vision and commitment to ensuring passage of this agreement." He adds, "America's support for CAFTA-DR sends a strong signal to the world that the United States is committed to market liberalization. We look forward to continuing to work with Congress and our trading partners around the world to provide global opportunities for free and fair trade through the Doha Development Agenda."
Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, says the signature sends an important message about maintaining the United States' leadership role on opening up international trade. "Passing CAFTA is important in its own right. But it's also important for building momentum in the ongoing Doha Round trade negotiations in the WTO. I hope the administration takes advantage of our passing CAFTA to press for meaningful market access commitments from our trading partners in those negotiations," he says.