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Dominican Republic passes free-trade agreement with US

Dominican Republic passes free-trade agreement with US

AP, Wednesday, September 07, 2005

SANTO DOMINGO — Dominican legislators overwhelmingly approved a free-trade agreement yesterday with the United States and five Central American countries - rejecting arguments that the pact would devastate the domestic sugar industry.

Following the 118-4 vote in the Lower House of Deputies, the agreement now goes to president Leonel Fernandez, who has said he’ll sign it. The Senate passed it 27-2 in late August.

"Failing to pass this would isolate the Dominican Republic from the free-trade tendencies in Latin America and put us at the margin of economic development," said Deputy Cristian Paredes from the Dominican Revolutionary Party, the majority in Congress.

Lawmakers said they would find ways to compensate sectors such as the sugar industry, expected to face strong American competition when the agreement takes effect next year.

Congress will now seek ways to compensate sectors that will face stiff American competition, said Alfredo Pacheco, president of the Lower House.

US president George W Bush signed the Central American Free Trade Agreement on August 2 after a tough battle to win approval in the US Congress.

The agreement will reduce trade barriers between member nations, lower obstacles to investment and strengthen protections for intellectual property.

"This agreement levels the playing field for American workers, farmers and businesses," said US Trade Representative Rob Portman in a statement praising the vote in the Dominican Congress.

The other five countries are Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Costa Rica and Nicaragua are the only nations that have not yet ratified the pact.

In the Western hemisphere, the United States also has free-trade agreements with Mexico, Canada and Chile.

 source: Jamaica Observer