President George W. Bush has signed the Central American-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement, or CAFTA, into law. CAFTA will remove trade barriers between the United States and Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and the Dominican Republic. Mr. Bush says that by opening up Central America and the Dominican Republic to U.S. trade and investment, CAFTA will help those countries provide a better life for their citizens:
"By further opening up their markets, CAFTA will help those democracies attract the trade and investment needed for economic growth. This economic growth will boost demand for U.S. goods and reduce poverty and contribute to the rise of a vibrant middle class. This economic growth will raise working standards and will deliver hope and opportunity to people who have made the choice for freedom."
The benefits of CAFTA are not only economic. By helping the nations of Central America improve their economies, CAFTA will help those nations strengthen their democracies. And this, says Mr. Bush, is in the U.S. national interest:
"Two decades ago, many of the CAFTA nations struggled with poverty and dictatorship and civil strife. Today, they're working democracies, and we must not take these gains for granted. These nations still face forces that oppose democracy, seek to limit economic freedom, and want to drive a wedge between the United States and the rest of the Americas. The small nations of CAFTA are making big and brave commitments, and CAFTA is a signal that the United States will stand with them and support them. By helping the CAFTA nations build free societies, we'll help them eliminate the lawlessness and instability that terrorists and criminals and drug traffickers feed on. And this will make our country safer."
The United States, said President Bush, has "a moral obligation and a vital national security interest" in helping Latin America's democracies succeed. CAFTA, he said, advances this goal.
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.