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Texas Ranchers support CAFTA

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SASH

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Agriculture secretary stumps for trade deal




May 13, 2005 (Fort Worth Star-Telegram - Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News via COMTEX) -- En route to Mexico, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns stopped in Fort Worth on Thursday to promote the proposed Central American Free Trade Agreement to a group of ranchers.

But there was little need.

As Johanns admitted, he was "preaching to the choir" when he chewed the fat with members of the Fort Worth-based Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, which supports lowering trade barriers as most mainstream cattle industry groups do.

That's not to say that no opponents can be found in Texas. Sugar growers strenuously oppose no-holds-barred imports of Central American sugar, and R-CALF, a small but growing group opposed to CAFTA and to re-opening the border to Canadian cattle, is gaining members.

Johanns said the sugar industry is "trying to hold up the gain for all of agriculture because of a hypothetical worry about what the future might look like." The industry is concerned that CAFTA's passage would lead to a similar free-trade pact with South America, where Brazil is a growing sugar powerhouse.

Johanns asserted that "99 percent" of Central American goods now "come in free" because of various U.S. trade concessions and that it's American farmers and ranchers who will benefit if the region lowers duties through CAFTA.

The effect of imported sugar would be negligible, he said. But he predicted that U.S. exports to Central America and the Dominican Republic would nearly double, to $3.5 billion from the current $1.8 billion.

Rancher Slayton Weldon, a fourth-generation rancher in Cuero and an R-CALF member, doesn't buy Johanns' arguments.

"There's a 14-year waiting period for all tariffs to be eliminated, so why in the world should we wait to get our products there when theirs are already coming in tariff-free?" said Weldon, who was not at the Fort Worth gathering.

Chicken quarters and better cuts of beef from Texas are expected to find markets in Costa Rica, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic if the nations end tariffs of 20 percent to 25 percent through CAFTA, said Parr Rosson, a foreign-trade expert at Texas A&M University.

Regarding the Montana-based R-CALF, which secured a court injunction keeping the border closed to Canadian cattle over concerns with mad cow disease, Johanns minced no words.

"These folks claim they are representing the little guy, but they are not. They are killing the little guy," he said. He insisted that Canadian cattle imports would be safe: "It pains me to see what they are doing to this great industry."
 

mrj

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Mr. Weldon, typical of the "anti's" is misleading us in claiming the tafiffs will take 14 years to be eliminated on US products under CAFTA.

The tariffs will vary by nation in how quickly they disappear. Some will drop by 5% per year till they are gone, in other nations it will drop by 15% the first year, then in 5% increments, and so on, ranging up to 15 years among the various nations involved.

MRJ
 

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