CAFTA agreement has strong support
This past week, the House of Representatives held its vote on a piece of trade legislation, which has dominated the news in recent weeks. This act, the Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA), had previously been passed by the Senate on June 30, 2005, by a vote of 54-45.
When I cast my vote in support of this agreement, which passed the House by a vote of 217-215, I did so only after carefully considering all the opinions and points of view I had received on this bill. In just the past few weeks alone, my office received numerous calls from both supporters and opponents of this bill.
In light of the public perception regarding this bill after the previous passage of NAFTA in January of 1994, I did not want to rush to judgment. The concerns raised by some constituents in south Alabama over this new trade agreement were certainly valid, and I took each one under careful consideration.
However, I also received numerous calls in support of this agreement, not only from local individuals but from a wide cross-section of state and national business, agriculture, and trade interests.
The Alabama Farmers Association (ALFA), the Business Council of Alabama, the Alabama Cattlemen's Association, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Cotton Council, and the Greater Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce – to name just a few – contacted me and my staff to express their strong support for this new free trade agreement. Each of them presented a carefully prepared explanation of why they were in favor of passage, and the benefits to each economic sector they represent were indeed strong.
The United States Chamber of Commerce has in recent months completed an impressive study of the overall economic impact on each of the 50 states resulting from the passage of the new Central American agreement.
In their study of the impact of the provisions of the agreement and the new trade balance brought into play between the United States and Central America during the next decade, the chamber has determined that manufacturers, agricultural producers, and any of a number of other economic interests in this country will be in a position to not only increase their share in the global market, but will increase revenues and be in a position to expand their businesses and bring more Americans into the workplace.
Within one year of the agreement being implemented, estimates show that Alabama industries will witness an estimated increase of $190 million in sales and an increase of approximately 1,500 new jobs. Over the next nine years, those same estimates show that nearly 8,000 new jobs will be created, and Alabama business sales will increase by $1 billion.
In conversations with colleagues in the House, administration officials, and even during a meeting with the president, it became clear to me that a defeat of this agreement could have a disastrous long-term impact on political stability in the Central American region. Had Congress not passed this measure and, in essence, had they turned a blind eye to Central America, some of the newer democracies in that region – such as the government of Nicaragua – would never have an opportunity to stabilize. As democracy in the United States has been historically viable because of the fact that our citizens have been provided with the jobs and economic tools to succeed, so, too, do new democracies depend on these same factors for survival.
Finally, here are a few examples of how Alabama will directly benefit from this new Central American agreement: