US Signs Central American Trade Pact
James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent
US Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick has informed Congress that the Central American
Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) will be signed in Washington on May 28, but the highly controversial
pact is far from a done deal. The formal signing is just another step in a process that is filled
with potholes. Under the fast track legislative process, the administration must wait 90 days to
advise Congress of its intent to sign an agreement, and that will be accomplished on May 28.
However, there is no deadline for the administration to submit formal legislative language, and in
view of the controversial nature of the agreement, that is not very likely to happen during this
election year. Once legislative language is submitted, Congress has 90 days to accept or reject the
pact without amendments.
The agreement has the strong support of retailers and other importers of textiles and apparel, but the US textile industry is flat out opposed to it in its present form. Importers believe CAFTA presents a nearby alternative to Chinese imports, and they say it can provide greater flexibility for their apparel sourcing. The US industry contends that CAFTA is too loosely worded and could open the gates to more imports from non-participating countries.