President Bush signs Central American trade agreement

[JURIST] President Bush Tuesday signed [White House press release] the US-Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) [text] into law, making it the first official trade pact between the US and Central America. CAFTA will end tariffs against US products in Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, and Honduras, and ensures those countries duty-free access to the US. Bush said the new law would help create jobs in the US by "leveling the playing field for our products," but CAFTA has been criticized by both Republicans and Democrats, passing the US House of Representatives [JURIST report] last week by a two-vote margin of 217-215 [roll call] after obtaining Senate approval by 54-45 [roll call] last month. Opponents of the accord say it will force more American jobs overseas and continue the exploitation of Central American workers. El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala have already ratified the agreement, which will go into effect as soon as a date is agreed upon. The remaining three countries have two years to approve the pact. The Washington Post has more.

 

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