OPENING DOORS WITH CAFTA-DR -- (House of Representatives - July 25, 2005)
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentlewoman from Florida (Ms. Ros-Lehtinen) is recognized for 5 minutes.
Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Speaker, as the House prepares to take up the Central American Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement, CAFTA-DR, this week, I urge my colleagues to render their full support for this measure.
This is an agreement that is not solely about trade, but also about saving lives and furthering the spread of democracy in the world. Passing CAFTA-DR has many positive and far-reaching implications. It promotes U.S. national security objectives in our own backyard by opening markets and fostering economic development, which are the critical weapons in fighting the conditions that breed instability and terrorism. By supporting CAFTA-DR, we will be giving the people of the countries included under the agreement the hope for change and for progress.
CAFTA-DR is not only vitally important to the future of the Central American nations and to the Dominican Republic, but to our own economic well-being and overall strategic considerations. By expanding exports, by lowering the trade deficit, CAFTA-DR creates jobs. Today nearly 80 percent of the products from Central America and the Dominican Republic and 99 percent of the agricultural products already enter the United States duty free. America's markets are already open. But Americans who wish to sell to Central America and the DR, on the other hand, face high tariffs. CAFTA-DR eliminates those foreign taxes, opening the region's markets to goods, services and farm products from the United States.
U.S. investors have invested billions of dollars overseas, stimulating trade. U.S. investors must be treated fairly in foreign markets like Central America if the system is to work fairly. The passage of CAFTA-DR in my home State of Florida would have far-reaching positive implications. Collectively the countries of CAFTA-DR are Florida's largest export destinations. Even individually CAFTA-DR markets are important trading partners for my home State of Florida. CAFTA-DR would provide enhanced market access to the Dominican Republic and to Central America as it will boost opportunities for Florida exporters throughout the region, providing new market access for the State's products.
CAFTA-DR will further obligate our trading partners to bring their laws and their regulations up to U.S. standards in areas such as the regulation of services, investments, intellectual property, telecommunications, procurement, and e-commerce. Establishing a level playing field helps U.S. businesses to compete. Concurrently CAFTA-DR will help strengthen the rule of law and promote transparency against all sectors. In doing so, it would help deny criminal elements and other unsavory characters of the corrupt structures that they could manipulate for anything from money laundering to terrorist financing.
As such, CAFTA-DR also serves to promote democratic governments, thus advancing stability and consolidating freely elected governments that are our allies in the war on drugs and the international war on terror.
By strengthening our allies, our neighboring countries, we are helping to stabilize and strengthen our own Nation. In passing CAFTA-DR, we are helping to ensure that the countries it includes will have the opportunity to fight threats to their democratic institutions that feed off discontent, poverty, and disenfranchisement.
On the other hand, failure to pass CAFTA-DR in Congress will only serve to cripple our efforts in freezing out narcoterrorist gangs and others who threaten our hemispheric stability.
Finally, CAFTA-DR would also allow Central America to thrive by exporting goods through trade rather than exporting people through illegal immigration. Opportunities would also increase access to new technologies and educational opportunities that are going to afford small and medium businesses the ability to expand and diversify. It would open the door to more private investment, to a qualitative and quantitative improvement in the job market, and higher economic growth, government revenue and increased social spending.
In summary, Mr. Speaker, adoption of CAFTA-DR will not only advance our own economic objectives, further our efforts to combat the war on terror and narcotrafficking, but also will strengthen our mission of strengthening and spreading democracy.
I look forward to the passage of CAFTA-DR. A vote for CAFTA-DR is a vote for our U.S. national security.