Bush Signs CAFTA Free Trade Agreement

8-2-05 - President Bush signed a hard-fought free trade pact with five Central American nations and the Dominican Republic on Tuesday, saying the measure would "advance peace and prosperity throughout the region."

Bush's signature at a ceremony in the East Room of the White House put the final touch on the Central America Free Trade Agreement, a measure approved by Congress last week with just a two-vote margin in the House after a bruising battle over the future of U.S. trade policy.

That 217-215 vote handed the president an important political victory after months of intense lobbying by the president and his trade officials.

"CAFTA is more than a trade bill," Bush said. He said the measure would help strengthen fragile young democracies in Latin America and show those countries that the United States would stand by their side.

Joining Bush at the signing ceremony were congressional sponsors of the pact and committee leaders and diplomats from the countries that are part of the pact.

The agreement, with Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic, removes trade barriers and opens up the region to U.S. goods and services. It also takes steps to facilitate investment in the area and strengthens protections for intellectual property.

"The bill I'm about to sign is good for America," said Bush.