The leaders of Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua met with President George W. Bush to discuss the proposed Central American Free Trade Agreement, known as CAFTA. The agreement has already been ratified by legislatures in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, and will shortly be taken up by the U.S. Congress.
President Bush said that CAFTA would generate economic growth, reducing poverty and creating new jobs:
"For the newly emerging democracies of Central America, CAFTA would bring new investment that means good jobs and higher labor standards for their workers. Central American consumers would have better access to more U.S. goods at better prices. And by passing this agreement, we would signal that the world's leading trading nation was committed to a closer partnership with countries in our own backyard."
President Elias Antonio Saca of El Salvador agreed, saying, "The worst thing that can happen to Central America is to be left alone by the United States." President Ricardo Maduro of Honduras says that increased free trade will benefit the people of Central America:
"We are here for the poor people of our countries and for the democratic system. This accord will help achieve goals that will be felt by poor people in their wallets. They believe in democracy, but they need palpable material gains."
Nicaragua's president, Enrique Bolanos, says the Central American Free Trade Agreement could help move his country forward as well.
President Bush emphasizes that CAFTA is not only about improving economies. "By transforming our hemisphere into a powerful free trade area," he says, "we will promote democratic governance, human rights, and economic liberty for everyone."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States government.