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Washington Outlook Archive

President Signs Central American Free Trade Agreement

James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent

President Bush has signed a Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) granting trade preferences to Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua the Dominion Republic is expected to be added later this month. The pact, which must be approved by Congress, is strongly opposed by the US textile industry, but it enjoys equally strong support from the importing community. In view of its controversial nature, the agreement is not likely to be considered by Congress until next year.

Describing signing of the agreement as a momentous occasion, Kevin Burke, president of the American Apparel and Footwear Association, said CAFTA is the only opportunity available to support US exports of textiles and fabrics to the region and retain, as well as possibly bolster, demand in the region for US textile inputs. While expressing disappointment that CAFTA does not go far enough in liberalizing trade, Laura E. Jones, executive director of the United States Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel, said the agreement will preserve textile jobs in the Western Hemisphere. While the world is changing dramatically on January 1, when quotas are finally phased out, the partnerships and commercial alliances created because of CAFTA will encourage textile and apparel manufacturing operations to remain in Central America and in the United States.US textile manufacturers remain opposed to CAFTA because of the way it will permit use of some yarn and fabric from non-participating countries.

June 2004