YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Bush Urges Passage of Trade Agreement

The plan would let more Central American sugar into the U.S., which worries sugar states.

June 24, 2005|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The White House sent Congress legislation late Thursday in an effort to secure passage of a controversial Central American trade agreement as Bush administration officials offered new concessions to the sugar industry to win support.

Congressional committees approved a mock version of the legislation last week in a tentative show of support. However, lawmakers representing sugar states are wary of the agreement. The House and Senate must vote within 90 legislative days of receiving the measure.

"The agreement will help to level the playing field because about 80% of Central America's imports already enjoy duty-free access to our market," President Bush wrote in a letter to Congress.

Supporters face a battle in the House, where Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, an opponent, said 90% of Democrats were opposed to the legislation, mainly because of what they perceived as weak protections for labor rights. She said at a news conference Thursday that the agreement would lead to the exploitation of Central American workers at the expense of American workers.

The Central American Free Trade Agreement, or CAFTA, would cover trade with Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.

The deal would eliminate, immediately or eventually, nearly all tariffs and other trade barriers to U.S. farm and manufactured products sold in the region.

It would let the six countries ship more sugar to the United States; U.S. growers view this as damaging to their market.

In meetings this week on Capitol Hill, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns promised to use his authority to keep excess Central American sugar off the U.S. market.

"I can guarantee that sugar is not going to be impacted by the CAFTA agreement during the life of the farm bill," Johanns told reporters Thursday.

Los Angeles Times Articles