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Food-safety dispute stalls trade agreement

Orlando Sentinel, USA

Food-safety dispute stalls trade agreement

Bloomberg News

21 January 2006

The U.S.-Central American Free Trade Agreement that was supposed to take effect Jan. 1 is being held up by the U.S. because some of the countries involved have yet to recognize U.S. meat-inspection procedures as valid.

"We will not implement until the commitments that were made are met," U.S. Trade Rep. Rob Portman said Friday. He said some nations haven’t lived up to pledges to recognize U.S. food-safety standards and make other regulatory changes.

Five of the six countries that signed the agreement with the United States — the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua — have ratified the accord. Portman didn’t specify which have failed to fulfill their requirements. Costa Rica, the sixth nation, hasn’t ratified the agreement yet.

Portman said the United States could begin putting the agreement in place on a rolling basis as early as March.