Bush Plans To Sign Central American Free Trade Agreement

President Bush has sent Congress formal notification that he intends to sign the Central American
Free Trade agreement recently negotiated between the US and Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala,
Honduras and Nicaragua. The notification initiates a procedure that will lead to a formal signing
as early as May 20. After that, the timetable gets a little uncertain because of a number of
requirements for the pact to be considered by Congress under the fast track procedures. The next
key development will be when the administration submits implementing legislation, and no one knows
when that will happen.

The Central American Free Trade Agreement is strongly opposed by US textile manufacturers and
equally strongly supported by importers of textiles and apparel. Saying he is looking forward to
swift approval of the agreement by Congress, Kevin M. Burke, president and CEO of the American
Apparel and Footwear Association, said the agreement will enable US textile and apparel companies
to remain competitive after textile and apparel quotas area abolished next January. On the other
hand, the American Textile Manufacturers Institute, National Cotton Council, the American
Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition, the National Textile Association and the American Yarn
Spinners Association all have voted to oppose it.

March 2004