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"One of the great economic achievements since the end of the Cold War," says President George W. Bush, "has been the success of free and fair trade in raising up the world's poor, bringing hope to the world's hopeless, promoting freedom among the world's oppressed, and creating jobs." That is why the United States supports CAFTA, the new free-trade pact with Central America and the Dominican Republic. The Central American Free Trade Agreement has already been ratified by legislatures in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, and will shortly be taken up by the U.S. Congress.

Mr. Bush said CAFTA will bring new investment to the countries of Central America, and that will mean "good jobs and higher labor standards for their workers":

"In these nations, wealthier citizens already enjoy access to goods and services produced abroad. By reducing tariffs on U.S. goods, all consumers in these countries will enjoy better goods at lower prices. These lower prices will also give Central American small businesses and farmers and entrepreneurs less costly access to U.S. machinery and equipment which will make them more competitive and help their economies grow. By bringing economic growth to Central America, CAFTA will contribute to the rise of a vibrant middle class. And that makes us reach -- a step closer to our goal, a goal of the Americas where the opportunities in San Jose, Costa Rica, are as real as they are in San Jose, California."

The Central American Free Trade Agreement, said Mr. Bush, "will continue to advance the stability and security that come from freedom":

"An Americas linked by trade is less likely to be divided by resentment and false ideologies. An Americas where all our people live in prosperity will be more peaceful. And an Americas whose countries have reduced the barriers to trade among ourselves will be a more competitive region in a global economy."

CAFTA is more than just a trade agreement, said President Bush. "It is a signal of the U.S. commitment to democracy and prosperity for our neighbors."

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States government.