Washington, DC – NFTC officials today applauded the signing of the U.S.-Central America Free Trade Agreement, calling it an historic building block in strengthening the economic and trade relationship between the United States and Central America. The CAFTA will also help raise living standards and strengthen democracy in a region of strategic proximity and importance to the U.S.
“The U.S.-Central America FTA will open up significant economic opportunities and boost economic growth in all of our countries,” said Mary Irace, Vice President of the National Foreign Trade Council. “The high standards set by this agreement will eliminate barriers to trade across-the-board, strengthen close economic and trade ties between the United States and its Central American neighbors, and serve as an impetus for a high-standard Free Trade Area of the Americas.”
Provisions of the new FTA include strong intellectual property rights protection and industrial market access. Additionally, the innovative capacity-building chapter will boost Central America’s ability to implement its commitments and benefit fully under the FTA.
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.
“With the U.S.-Central America FTA, U.S. small and large businesses, workers, farmers and consumers stand to gain from greater trade with Central America. The same is true for our Central American neighbors. This is a fine example of sustaining regional and economic stability through more transparent, open trade relations. We hope the momentum from today’s signing will aide in the swift, thorough completion of future FTA negotiations,” stated Irace.