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Statement by Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman Regarding the Conclusion of the U.S.-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA)

WASHINGTON, Dec. 17, 2003 – "The United States and four Central American countries – El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua – today concluded a free-trade agreement that further advances trade liberalization and expands economic opportunities for America’s farmers, ranchers and exporters.

"I want to convey our thanks to Ambassador Zoellick and his team and the many negotiators from all countries who have worked for a year to bring this agreement to completion.

"We expect new and expanded market access for a broad range of U.S. commodities. These include feed grains, rice, beef, pork, poultry, horticultural products and processed consumer-ready products, to name just a few. Under this agreement, U.S. agricultural exports, now near $1 billion a year, will compete more favorably in this nearby and growing market of 31 million consumers.

"This comprehensive agreement embodies the general principles regarding duty-free, quota-free access for all agricultural products and addresses other important trade measures in both countries. All countries have renewed their commitment to continue the work on resolving continuing sanitary and phytosanitary issues that inhibit market access.

"We want to assure our producers that provisions are in place to provide additional protection to import sensitive products such as sugar, dairy, peanuts and meat during the transition period. Depending on the products, these could include tariff-rate quotas, long-term tariff phase-outs, nonlinear tariff reductions, and the application of an import safeguard mechanism.

"This is yet another positive development for our currently strong agricultural economy. This agreement will provide expanding long-term opportunities for our producers in a growth market right here in our hemisphere."


USDA Release No. 0426.03
FAS Release No. 0321-03

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