CAFTA passage hailed by trade groups
The narrow victory for the Central American Free Trade Agreement in the U.S. House in the early morning hours of July 28 was hailed as a victory for President Bush and a victory for the manufacturing sector.
The National Association of Manufacturers and the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, both of which had lobbied aggressively for passage in the House, were pleased with the 217-215 vote, which immediately lifts tariffs on U.S. goods to six Central American nations — Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic.
NAM president John Engler called the passage “a big win for the United States, for Central America and for the world. The House rejected isolationism, and it affirmed that America’s economic future lies with open markets and a level playing field for international trade.”
He said the NAM also “worked very hard for a CAFTA win because a loss would have hurt American manufacturing and jobs here at home. We lobbied hard in Washington, but the efforts of large and small manufacturers around the country to explain to lawmakers that CAFTA was a vital part of our U.S. manufacturing agenda made the difference.
“I hope this CAFTA vote marks the end of political opposition to trade liberalization,” Engler added.
NEMA officials backed the bill because it is viewed as favorable to the electrical sector, lifting tariffs on electrical equipment. “We are delighted to see CAFTA approved by the Hill,” said NEMA President Malcolm O’Hagan. “We and our member companies lobbied long and hard on behalf of this agreement, and we very much thank the many House members who chose to make politically tough, but correct votes on behalf of economic growth in the U.S. and the region.
“This FTA is more important to our members than it might at first appear,” said O’Hagan. “These countries, while physically small, are surprisingly important trading partners and export markets. The Dominican Republic is our members’ third largest Latin American export market and trading partner after Mexico and Brazil. And the five Central American countries combined represent the U.S. electroindustry’s number two Latin American export market.”