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U.S., Dominican Rep begin free trade talks

by 5m Editor
14 January 2004, at 12:00am

US - The United States and the Dominican Republic began talksMonday to include the Caribbean nation in a U.S.-Central American free trade agreement struck last month.

U.S., Dominican Rep begin free trade talks - US - The United States and the Dominican Republic began talksMonday to include the Caribbean nation in a U.S.-Central American free trade agreement struck last month.

Despite a last-minute plea from Dominican businesses to delay entering any tariff-eradicating accord, President Hipolito Mejia said his country of nearly 9 million was ready and willing to ratify a deal.

An agreement would add the Dominican Republic to the Central America Free Trade Agreement, or CAFTA, reached in mid-December between the United States and El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Costa Rica backed out of the accord but expects to conclude further negotiations with Washington this month.

The Bush administration hopes to submit CAFTA to Congress this spring.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative hopes to conclude the talks with the Dominican Republic by then to present one package to lawmakers. It said including the country would increase the size of the CAFTA by 40 percent and make the CAFTA countries collectively the second-largest U.S. trade partner in Latin America behind Mexico.

The Dominican Republic imports around $4.3 billion of U.S. goods a year but import tariffs average 8.6 percent. U.S. industrial sectors that stand to gain from free trade are computer manufacturers, telecommunications and food producers.

U.S. sugar farmers are worried that including the Dominican Republic in the pact will lead to substantial new imports, and sugar groups have already announced they will oppose CAFTA because of Central American sugar imports.

In the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, business leaders appealed over the weekend for a delay until 2007 in the implementation of any free trade deal.

Poultry producers fear they will be unable to compete against cheaper U.S. chicken.

Mejia dismissed the appeal as unfounded.

In the past, the government has assured producers of rice, corn, garlic, onion, chickens, milk, beans and sugar that those sectors would continue to be protected under any trade agreement until the United States dismantles its subsidies.

Source: Reuters - 12th January 2004

5m Editor