December 17,2003

Baucus Statement on Negotiations for a U.S.-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA)

"Today, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick announced the conclusion ofnegotiations for a free trade agreement between the United States and four Central Americancountries. In my view, this announcement is premature. Too many important issues remain open todeclare these negotiations successfully concluded.

Most importantly, the agreement does not include Costa Rica, the largest economy and thelargest market for U.S. exports in the region. Whether Costa Rica will join the CAFTA, and onwhat terms, will not be worked out until some time next year. Other areas of the agreement alsoneed more work. For example, market access commitments for some services have been set asidefor completion at some indefinite future time.

Significantly, the agreement’s provisions on environment and labor are not complete. Workremains to be done on establishing an effective citizen petition process that would give CentralAmerican citizens the same rights as their U.S., Mexican, and Canadian counterparts to questiontheir governments’ commitment to effectively enforce environmental laws. Environmental andlabor cooperation agreements need to include provisions for monitoring by objective internationalor regional organizations to assure that standards in the region are, in fact, improving.I have been working closely with Ambassador Zoellick on these issues and am hopeful thatthey can be resolved in the coming weeks. But we are not done yet.

I have long supported trade agreements that open markets and create opportunities forAmerican farmers, workers, and businesses. I think the CAFTA has the potential to be such anagreement. But no deal is better than a bad deal, and at this point we don’t know enough to decidewhether the CAFTA is a good deal.

As it stands, I don’t think this agreement has the support needed for Congressional approval.I urge the Administration to continue working to resolve these important outstanding issues beforedeclaring the negotiations a success."