[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: George W. Bush (2005, Book I)]
[June 23, 2005]
[Pages 1057-1058]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks on the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free 
Trade Agreement
June 23, 2005

    Thank you all for coming. Please be seated. I want to thank the 
Democratic and Republican leaders who have come here today to support 
the Central American-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement known as 
CAFTA. As you can see, there are former Cabinet members of both 
Republican and Democrat Presidents, former staff members of Republican 
and Democrat Presidents, people who have said it is time to set aside 
political differences and focus on this very important trade agreement 
for the good of our country. And I want to thank you all for coming. I 
appreciate our visit. I appreciate the chance to hear your point of view 
about what we need to do together to get this bill passed.
    I want to thank the members of my Cabinet who are here. I appreciate 
you all coming. I particularly want to say thanks to Ambassador Rob 
Portman, who is the U.S. Trade 
Representative. He is the point person in the Bush administration to get 
this bill passed. He's working hard. He's working smart, and with your 
help and the help of those on the stage, I'm confident that Congress 
will do the right thing.
    The reason we're here is because we share an interest in promoting 
opportunity and prosperity here at home. All of us understand that 
strengthening our economic ties with our democratic neighbors is a vital 
issue of national importance. All of us urge Congress to pass the 
agreement because America has an interest in strengthening democracy and 
advancing prosperity in our hemisphere.
    One of the surest ways to strengthen democracy and advance 
prosperity is by establish a trading system based on clear rules. My 
predecessors from both parties, former Presidents from both political 
parties, pursued this goal at all levels--at the global level, at the 
bilateral level, and at the regional level. Today, CAFTA presents us 
with an historic opportunity to advance a free and fair trading system 
that will bring benefits to all sides.
    I want to thank the members of the diplomatic corps from Central 
America who have joined us today. Los Embajadores, bienvenidos. Thank 
you for coming.
    These Ambassadors understand what I just said. I said, this trade 
agreement benefits both sides. It's a good deal for the CAFTA countries, 
and it's a good deal for America as well.
    It's a good deal for America because CAFTA will help level the 
playing field for our goods and services. Under existing rules, nearly 
80 percent of imports from Central America and the Dominican Republic 
already enter the United States duty free. But U.S. exports into the 
region face heavy tariffs. Let me repeat that: 80 percent of goods 
produced in Central America come into our country, come into the United 
States duty-free. Yet the same isn't--it's not the same for American 
    By passing CAFTA, the United States would open up a market of 44 
million consumers for our farmers and small-business people and 
entrepreneurs. By lowering barriers in key segments like textiles, CAFTA 
will put our region in a better position to compete with low-cost 
producers in Asia.
    For the young democracies of Central America and the Dominican 
Republic, CAFTA would continue the current trade benefits. That means 
good jobs and higher labor standards for their workers. And because of 
reduced tariffs on U.S. goods, consumers in these countries would have 
access to better goods at lower prices. And that brings us a step closer 
to our goal of an Americas where the opportunities in

[[Page 1058]]

San Jose, Costa Rica, are as real as they are in San Jose, California.
    People have got to understand that by promoting policy that will 
help generate wealth in Central America, we're promoting policy that 
will mean someone is less--more likely to stay at home to find a job. If 
you're concerned about immigration to this country, then you must 
understand that CAFTA and the benefits of CAFTA will help create new 
opportunity in Central American countries, which will mean someone will 
be able to find good work at home, somebody will be able to provide for 
their family at home, as opposed to having to make the long trip to the 
United States. CAFTA is good immigration policy as well as good trade 
    And it's good geopolitics as well. For the Western Hemisphere, CAFTA 
would bring the stability and security that can only come from freedom. 
That's what we're interested in. We're interested in spreading freedom. 
Today, a part of the world that was once characterized by oppression and 
military dictatorship sees its future in democratic elections and free 
and fair trade, and we cannot take these gains for granted. These small 
nations are making big and brave commitments, and America must continue 
to support them. And CAFTA is a good way to support them. CAFTA is good 
for our workers. It's good for our farmers. It's good for our small-
business people, but it's equally as good for the folks in Central 
    By transforming our hemisphere into a powerful trading area, CAFTA 
will help promote democracy, security, and prosperity. The United States 
was built on freedom, and the more of it we have in our own backyard, 
the freer and safer and more prosperous America will be. The leaders 
from both parties here today share this vision.
    These folks, who toiled in the vineyards of good international 
politics and worked in the White House know exactly what I'm talking 
about. That's why they're standing up here and saying with common voice 
to the United States Congress, ``Let's get this bill passed.'' See, 
CAFTA is more than a trade agreement; it is a signal of our Nation's 
commitment to democracy and prosperity for the entire Western 
Hemisphere. And I urge, and we urge, the United States Congress to pass 
    Thanks for coming.

Note: The President spoke at 1:43 p.m. in Room 450 of the Dwight D. 
Eisenhower Executive Office Building. The Office of the Press Secretary 
also released a Spanish language transcript of these remarks.