WASHINGTON, D.C. – Chairman Bob Goodlatte today announced his support for the Central America—Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) at a press conference with Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns and U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman. On August 5, 2004 the six CAFTA-DR countries signed the agreement; however, the Congress must pass legislation authorizing the agreement before it can go into effect.
“I am happy to announce my support for CAFTA today along with Secretary Mike Johanns and Ambassador Rob Portman. I have called this press conference in an effort to move this process along and to encourage my House colleagues and the Members of the Agriculture Committee to support and vote for this trade agreement,” said Chairman Goodlatte.
Current trade with the six other CAFTA-DR countries is unbalanced as 99 percent of the food and agricultural products imported from these countries enter into the U.S. duty free. Adversely, U.S. food and agricultural products exported to the CAFTA-DR countries incur tariffs exceeding 11 percent on average.
“Currently, U.S. agricultural exports to the six CAFTA-DR countries total $1.7 billion. Imports from these countries total $2.4 billion which not only creates a significant trade deficit but also puts our producers at a severe disadvantage. More than half of U.S. farm exports to these countries will become duty-free immediately which will start to even out the playing field. So it is to the advantage of the American farmer that this trade agreement comes into force so that they can have the market access that farmers in these six countries have to the U.S. market,” said the Chairman.
The press conference followed an executive session with Members of the Agriculture Committee, the Secretary, and the Ambassador to discuss CAFTA among other items on the agenda. Chairman Goodlatte has been a proponent of free trade agreements and believes free and fair trade is essential for America’s farmers and ranchers to remain competitive in the world market.
“In negotiating trade agreements, the U.S. strives to decrease and harmonize tariffs, eliminate export subsidies and reduce and harmonize trade distorting domestic support policies. CAFTA-DR meets those goals and will provide the U.S. an opportunity to increase agricultural exports which is good news for America’s farmers and ranchers,” said the Chairman.
In a letter sent to Members of Congress in April, more than 50 agriculture groups urged Members to support legislation to authorize the agreement, calling CAFTA a “home-run” for American agriculture. An additional letter was sent by the former Secretaries of Agriculture asking for Congressional support for the trade agreement.