Washington, DC – NFTC officials today praised the finalization of talks for the U.S.-Central America Free Trade Agreement for setting a high-standard building block for the future of free trade in the Western Hemisphere.
“Today’s wrap-up of the U.S.-Central America FTA negotiations produces an agreement that will open up crucial economic opportunities for both regions while simultaneously giving Central America a platform of American influence for building on democracy there,” said Bill Reinsch, President of the National Foreign Trade Council. “The standards set by this agreement will eliminate old barriers to trade between the regions, serving as an impetus to spur talks on the Free Trade Area of the Americas. Showing that swift action and cooperation can produce a meaningful FTA, this Central America agreement will be a strong foundation for comprehensive, fair hemispheric trade.”
In the NFTC’s initial review of today’s agreement, officials were pleased to see provisions included for strong intellectual property rights protection and industrial market access. Additionally, the innovative capacity-building chapter will boost Central America’s ability trade effectively within the agreement terms. The success of this unique program – sponsored by U.S. government agencies, international institutions, corporations and non-governmental organizations – can now be incorporated into future FTA’s with developing nations.
With President Bush announcing intentions in 2002 to pursue an FTA with Central America, talks began in earnest in January 2003. U.S. exports to the Central American governments of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua were valued at $9 billion in 2001, almost equal to U.S. exports to Russia, India and Indonesia combined. In addition, 78% of those exporters to Central America are small businesses.
“The Central America FTA agreement is a victory for both regions, and I remain hopeful that Costa Rica will ultimately join in it,” continued Reinsch. “Keeping high standards in this FTA agreement shows the developing world that only rigorous and thorough FTA standards will benefit their long-term economic viability.
“Now, U.S. small and large business owners will get a boost with better trade practices, while a larger U.S. presence in Central America will strengthen the democracies they have so quickly developed since the end of the Cold War,” Reinsch continued. “This is a fine example of sustaining regional and economic stability through more transparent, open trade relations. We hope the momentum from today’s announcement will aide in the swift, thorough completion of future FTA negotiations.”
The National Foreign Trade Council is a leading business organization advocating an open, rules-based global trading system. Founded in 1914 by a broad-based group of American companies, the NFTC now serves 400 member companies through its offices in Washington and New York.