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U.S. Chamber Welcomes U.S.-Central America Trade Announcement

Tuesday, December 16, 2003 - 7:00pm

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United States Chamber of Commerce welcomed today's announcement that the U.S. had concluded negotiations for a free trade agreement with El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Costa Rica declined to close on the deal, but the U.S. left the door open for the country to join in the regional pact in the weeks ahead.

"While we need to review the details, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick and the Central American negotiators appear to have clinched a solid trade agreement," said Dan Christman, the Chamber's senior vice president for international affairs. "This agreement should pave the way for a substantial expansion of business ties between the U.S. and Central America.

"The agreement is also significant because it underscores U.S. commitment to trade liberalization in the Americas, providing welcome impetus for the Free Trade Area of the Americas negotiations," Christman added.

Trade between the United States and Central America reached nearly $22 billion in 2002. As an integrated market for U.S. exports, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua are together on par with such advanced industrialized countries as Italy, and they buy more U.S. goods than Australia, Spain, or Sweden.

Once negotiations to incorporate the Dominican Republic are completed over the next few months, the resulting agreement will offer U.S. companies access to the largest market for U.S. goods and services in Latin America after Mexico.

A mutually beneficial free trade agreement will advance U.S. interests by improving market access for agricultural and manufactured goods, strengthening intellectual property and investor protections, opening services markets, and enhancing transparency in government procurement, according to the Chamber.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world's largest business federation, representing more than three million businesses and organizations of every size, sector and region.

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