Let the Games Begin

Senate Finance Committee approval of CAFTA begins countdown to final vote. Compiled by staff

Published on: Jun 15, 2005

Tuesday the Senate Finance Committee voted to support the U.S. Central American-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). The Finance Committee voted 11-9 in favor of the draft CAFTA in a non-binding "mock markup."

The members did not agree on several sugar amendments, although a letter from Johanns to members of the committee explained that the administration may be willing to work out a compromise on sugar to get the pact passed.

Trade Promotion Authority allows the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee to recommend minor changes to trade agreements, but not alter the trade agreements negotiated by the administration. The administration can either reject or accept the changes included in each chamber's mock-up. Once the White House submits the accord to Congress it has up to 90 legislative days to approve or reject it.

"By advancing CAFTA, the Senate Finance Committee sent a message that they stand firmly in support of our nation's producers," Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns explains. "This demonstrates how American agriculture can succeed when we all work together."

The National Farmers Union expressed disappointment in the Senate Finance Committee’s decision to move the Central American Free Trade Agreement forward in Congress. At the same time, NFU believes the level of dissent within the Committee is indicative of problems to come for CAFTA.

"While I’m disappointed that the Committee approved CAFTA, the slim majority by which it won in this generally pro-trade Committee is reflective of the lack of support this agreement has in both Congress and the countryside," says NFU President Dave Frederickson.

The Finance Committee voted 11-9 in favor of the draft CAFTA in a non-binding "mock markup." The Committee normally approves trade agreements by a comfortable margin, but only narrowly approved CAFTA on Tuesday. NFU is fighting to ensure that CAFTA is not approved by Congress.

"We cannot keep passing trade agreements that put American agriculture in jeopardy," adds Frederickson. "CAFTA does not enjoy bipartisan support, because, like NAFTA, it represents a race to the bottom for commodity prices."

CAFTA ignores major issues that distort fair trade such as labor, environmental regulations and currency. NFU does not support this agreement, which trades away our agricultural markets for no visible returns to American farmers and ranchers.