The Dominican Republic became the fourth country to approve the Central American-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement. El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and United States have already approved the agreement; Costa Rica and Nicaragua have not.
"It's good to see the Dominican Republic sign on to CAFTA-DR," says Leon Corzine, National Corn Growers Association president. "These countries understand the importance of trade in our own hemisphere. We need to have a trade agreement with these countries in order to have strong relationships with them. It's good to see they want to have a strong relationship with the United States as well."
President George W. Bush signed CAFTA-DR Aug. 2. CAFTA-DR provides immediate duty-free access to more than half of all U.S. agricultural exports to the region and will enhance U.S. agricultural exports by $1.5 billion when fully implemented.
NCGA and other agriculture organizations have long touted the benefits this agreement provides to agriculture, including:
- Increasing agriculture exports by $900 million annually
- Immediate elimination of duties on more than 80 percent of U.S. exports
- Increasing exports of U.S. manufactured exports by approximately $3 billion annually
- Opening markets to give our growers access to important markets.
"With the addition of the Dominican Republic, corn imports from the United States will grow from an average of $93.3 million (1999-2001) to $148.3 million in 2024," says June Silverberg, NCGA director of public policy. "Tariffs on both white and yellow corn will be set at zero duty immediately. As a result, we expect to see our exports to the Dominican Republic grow as a direct effect of the elimination of duties."
U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman says, "We will be coordinating with the CAFTA governments over the next few weeks to determine when to put the agreement into effect."
Corzine is excited the agreement could kick into effect soon.
"We're moving very quickly," he says. "The quicker we enact the agreement, the quicker all of the countries involved can see the beneficial effects of free trade. This agreement is very beneficial to the United States economy and agriculture."
Silverberg added, "The playing field is now level and with the addition of DR, our producers are provided with new opportunities to gain greater access to additional markets in the Dominican Republic."