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James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent

Two More Nations Join Central American Trade Pact

By James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent

Two additional nations — Honduras and Nicaragua — have officially joined the Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA) in a move that should please both US textile manufacturers and importers.

Although DR-CAFTA was negotiated in 2004, the six Central American participants have been slow in getting their respective governments to take the steps necessary to implement the agreement. El Salvador was the first to come on board this past March, but still awaiting action by their governments are Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and Guatemala. Once the pact is fully implemented, participants will enjoy duty-free access to US textile and apparel markets, providing they use inputs made in one of the participating countries.

Saying the US government has worked “closely and intensively” with the participating countries, US Trade Representative Rob Portman promised, “We will continue to work with the remaining three DR-CAFTA partners to ensure timely and full implementation of the agreement.” That could not happen too soon for US textile and apparel manufacturers and importers who see increased trade with the Central American countries as an alternative to trade dominated by China and other Asian nations.

April 4, 2006