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Washington Outlook Archive
James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent

DR-CAFTA Agreement Off To Slow Start

By James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent

Although the US free trade agreement with six Central American countries is off to a slow start, US trade officials are optimistic it will continue to move forward “as quickly as possible.” The agreement was scheduled to go into effect January 1, but at this point, only El Salvador appears to be close to implementing procedures that will enable it to benefit from the pact. The office of the US Trade Representative said the US government is “working intensively” with all of the Central American partners but the agreement will be implemented “on a rolling basis” as countries make sufficient progress to complete their commitments under the agreement.

The Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA) was signed by President Bush last August, but the governments of each of the participating countries must ratify it. Participating countries — the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua — constitute a $16 billion market for US goods, making them the second-largest US export market in Latin America, behind Mexico. Both textile manufacturers and importers expect to expand that trade significantly. 

January 1, 2006