CAFTA Now in Effect for Guatemala

The Associated Press
Friday, June 30, 2006; 6:04 PM

WASHINGTON -- A free trade agreement with Guatemala will take effect Saturday, the Bush administration says.

That country will join El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua as countries that have fully implemented the requirements needed to make the Central American Free Trade Agreement operational.

President Bush issued a proclamation on Friday setting July 1 as the starting date for Guatemala's entry into CAFTA.

That leaves only Costa Rica and the Dominican Republican as countries that have yet to begin participating in the free trade deal, which tears down trade barriers among the United States and six Latin American countries.

U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab praised Guatemala for its "sincere and diligent" effort to adopt the necessary laws and regulations to put CAFTA into effect.

She said the administration was continuing to work with Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic to "ensure timely and full implementation of the agreement."

Costa Rica is the only country which has yet to ratify the agreement while both Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic must pass various laws needed to comply with commitments the nations made in the agreement.

Congress passed CAFTA after a hard-fought battle last year, with the measure winning approval in the House by just two votes.

It had been expected to take effect on Jan. 1 with all six nations, but it ran into a series of obstacles as the Latin American nations had trouble passing the legislation needed to implement various sections of the deal.

The agreement is part of the administration's push to strike free trade deals with countries around the world as a way of boosting U.S. exports. Democratic opponents charged CAFTA will expose American workers to unfair competition from low-wage countries and hasten the movement of U.S. manufacturing jobs overseas.


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