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The US-Central America Free Trade Agreement, commonly referred to as “CAFTA,” was signed in December 2003 after twelve short months of negotiation. The negotiations involved the US, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Costa Rica at first refused to join the agreement, then changed its position in late January 2004. The US separately negotiated a bilateral treaty with the Dominican Republic, with a view to folding the deal, and the country itself, into the US-CAFTA scheme.

The US-CAFTA was signed late May 2004, and the Dominican Republic became an additional party to it in August 2004. Since then, the accord has been officially renamed the “United States-Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement” or US-DR-CAFTA. But the overall agreement — which a lot of people continue calling just “CAFTA” — still needs ratification by all parties to go into force.

CAFTA is a wide-ranging agreement covering many areas: agriculture, telecommunications, investment, trade in services (from water distribution to gambling), intellectual property, the environment, etc. It essentially serves US business interests by giving them a concrete and high-level set of rights to operate in Central America. Some US sectors, such as sugar producers, feel threatened by the treaty. But by and large, the threats are mainly against the Central American countries which signed on, as it opens the depths of their economies — public and private — to the interests and power of US companies.

In July 2005, US Congress approved the DR-CAFTA and Bush signed it into law in early August. The Central American parliaments eventually also approved it. For the Dominican Republic, the treaty took effect in 2006.

Costa Rica was the Central American country with the strongest resistance to DR-CAFTA. There were large public demonstrations and information campaigns, and a broad grouping of civil society organizations, from trade unions to small farm organizations, signed on. This coalition successfully pushed for a referendum on ratification, which was held on 7 October 2007. The result: 51.62% in favour and 48.38% opposed. The result was considered binding since more than 40% of the electorate voted. In view of these results, CAFTA was ratified.

On December 23, President Bush issued a proclamation to implement the DR-CAFTA for Costa Rica as of 1 January 2009.

last update: May 2012
Photo: Public Citizen

Free Trade would be launched in January to avoid jeopardizing agro
The Dominican government will inform United States authorities as to how it prefers to handle export guidelines that are expected to enter the country en masse, should the DR-CAFTA be implemented before year’s end.
Dominicans contract Colombian scientist for DR-CAFTA training
A Colombian scientist in forensics and populations is in the country to undertake an ample training program in advanced molecular biology techniques with a view to creating human resources capable of genetically categorizing the various agriculture crops destined for export in light of the DR-CAFTA trade accord soon to be implemented.
Implementing Free Trade before 2007 forces hefty agriculture imports
The possible implementation of the Free Trade Agreement with the United States before the year ends will compel the Dominican Republic to authorize hefty import quotas of products in the agribusiness sector, and which could cause an exceeding supply that may jeopardize local producers.
Express fear on doorstep of Free Trade
The Newscasters and Radio and TV Producers guild considered that the Free Trade Agreement signed by the country with Central America and the United States will jeopardize the sector and will affect the population’s possibility to receiving reliable information.
Companies eye pull-outs if CAFTA flounders
Weary of the snail’s pace ratification process of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), which continues to dominate Costa Rica’s political and social agenda, some companies are weighing the idea of moving to other Central American countries should Congress reject the treaty.
Dominican Free Trade delegation is off to Washington
A Dominican delegation of Government officials left for Washington yesterday, to give the finishing touches to the proceedings so that the country enters the Free Trade Agreement with the United States and Central America.
Massa rips free trade deals
Congressional hopeful Eric Massa of Corning said Tuesday his opposition to "burn-down-the-barn free trade agreements" is the biggest difference between him and his opponent this fall, U.S. Rep. John R. Kuhl Jr., R-Hammondsport.
Costa Rica: Es obligatorio consultar el TLC a pueblos indígenas
“El texto del proyecto de ley que se tramita bajo el expediente No. 16.047, ‘Tratado de Libre Comercio República Dominicana - Centroamérica - Estados Unidos’ (TLC), en virtud de contener disposiciones normativas que pueden afectar directamente a los pueblos indígenas, debe ser consultado a esas comunidades (...)”. Con este párrafo concluye un informe en el cual el Departamento de Servicios Técnicos de la Asamblea Legislativa se pronuncia sobre la obligatoriedad de consultar a las comunidades indígenas del país sobre el polémico tratado comercial.
Guatemala to sue US for dumping
After a month and five days of implementing the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with United States, Guatemala is suffering from this pact’s asymmetries and is suing the northern country for unfair competition.
Costa Rican Greens slam US-FTA
Some 60 Costa Rican ecologist organizations protested Monday against the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Central America and the United States, due to its risk for the environment.