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Ag State Senators Bash CAFTA

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Central American trade accord draw fire from Republican senators

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Bush administration took a beating Tuesday
from farm-state senators angry about a pending trade agreement with
Central America. A Republican who supports the deal said the
administration hadn't done enough to show farmers how they would
The Central America Free Trade Agreement would phase out
protective tariffs and quotas in the Dominican Republican and
Central American countries as well as the United States.
"They're going to have to put on a full-court press, or CAFTA
may not pass," said Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan. "They're going to
have to sell it a lot better and prove to a farmer or rancher how
he or she is really benefiting from this."
Roberts said farmers have "trade fatigue" because earlier
deals were both oversold and overcriticized. Now producers, such as
sugar growers, are demanding to see what the deal offers their
specific commodity, he said.
Sugar growers have created the most opposition to CAFTA on
Capitol Hill. Republicans from sugar states joined Democrats in
criticizing CAFTA during a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing
CAFTA would allow six countries - Costa Rica, the Dominican
Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua - to ship
more sugar to the United States. The trade deal has special clauses
limiting that amount, but U.S. sugar growers say any increase will
devastate their market.
If the agreement is so badly needed, then "why take a
relatively little thing like sugar and put it in there?" asked
Sen. Craig Thomas, R-Wyo.
Wyoming growers are storing sugar because they can't sell it
right now, Thomas said.
Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., said 40,000 Minnesotans depend on
his state's sugar industry. "I've got folks who their economic
future is as tied to this as any of the poor folks living in
Central America," Coleman said.
Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns defended the deal, saying it
would allow the six countries to ship about one day's worth of U.S.
production into this market.
"Basically, the impact on the U.S. sugar industry will be
minimal," he said.
Johanns warned that the Central America agreement is crucial to
the World Trade Organization's current "Doha round" of global
trade negotiations.
If CAFTA fails, "all of a sudden we're going to have a very
tough time negotiating," Johanns said.
Sen. Mark Dayton, D-Minn., complained that Johanns left before
he had a chance to question him, calling that a "disservice" to
Thomas and Coleman have not decided how they will vote on CAFTA.
The agriculture committee's chairman, Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.,
has said he plans to vote against the agreement as it stands.
The agreement was negotiated more than a year ago and President
Bush is pushing Congress to approve it before taking a monthlong
vacation in August. However, opponents in the House claim they now
have the votes to defeat it, and Republican supporters have said a
vote won't occur as long as that situation exists.
On the Net:
Senate Agriculture Committee: http://agriculture.senate.gov/
U.S. Trade Representative: http://www.ustr.gov/
I watched some debate on C-Span. According to the Import Federation there will be no net loss in the U.S. trade deficit, probably an increase. This can only mean that more lbs. will be coming in than going out. Sugar imports will be raised 500,000 TONS. Not good for cattlemen, beet, or cane growers.

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