WASHINGTON, DC – A group of cotton producer leaders attending a President Bush-led rally in support of the Dominican Republic - Central America Free Trade Agreement got the message that the trade pact will be positive for the U.S. agriculture and textile sectors.
The producers, participants in the National Cotton Council’s Policy Education Program, heard the President address the Hispanic Free Trade Alliance on the merits of the DR-CAFTA and heard him urge the U.S. House of Representatives, next week, to understand the economic wisdom of this bill, and “open up the market of 44 million consumers to U.S. businesses, U.S. farms, and U.S. manufacturers.”
“What I got out of it was that it (DR-CAFTA) was going to be good for everyone,” said Jimmy Brooks, an Atmore, AL, producer. “Getting rid of the tariffs will help us get more of our crop into other countries.” The agreement could help the “U.S. textile industry tremendously by enabling them to sell more of its yarn.”
Mike Lucas, a Chester, GA, producer, said the DR-CAFTA would insure U.S. cotton producers continued access into countries that largely process U.S. fiber.
“Increased cotton exports mean better returns,” Lucas said. “That’s good because cotton in Georgia supports almost 54,000 jobs and generates almost $6 billion in business revenue.”
Fellow Georgia producer Neil Lee of Bronwood, GA, said the DR-CAFTA offers the best opportunity to sustain the U.S. textile industry and help this nation’s cotton producers simultaneously.
In his address, held at the Organization of American States, President Bush said that by the time the trade pact is fully implemented, it would increase U.S. farm exports by as much as $1.5 billion.
“We produce more than we consume in the United States,” Bush said. “And, therefore, it makes sense for government policy and for our Secretary of Agriculture to work to find markets for that which we produce. And if the products we produce are taxed via tariff, it makes those products more expensive than need be. And, therefore, by reducing tariffs on agricultural exports from the United States, it opened up markets for our ranchers and farmers.”
The President also noted that by giving the DR-CAFTA countries’ garment makers an incentive to use U.S. fabrics and materials, a regional partnership is being created to help the CAFTA nations, the Dominican Republic and the United States “compete with Asian producers that are using Asian materials.”
He noted that CAFTA includes strong enforcement provisions that go further than previous trade agreements.
“To protect our textile workers from unfair competition, CAFTA gives our Custom agents the ability to conduct surprise visits on Central American factories,” the President said. “It's one way you make sure trade is fair, you're being treated fairly.”The President also told the rally that the U.S. International Trade Commission says that passing CAFTA would reduce the trade deficit by more than $750 million.