PASS DR-CAFTA -- (House of Representatives - July 25, 2005)
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Mr. CARTER. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Brady), who clearly has been in the lead and is outspoken for the CAFTA-Dominican Republic project, for yielding to me.
This is critical not only to the Central America region but to the United States of America. We are opening up trade so that our products get sold in Central America without duties on our products.
The Central American countries have the opportunity to sell in our country, and they do not have a burden on their products up here. And, in fact, we are their number one trading partner. The expansion, the benefit that we see is what is going to happen to our folks.
Whenever I look at one of these things that are coming up in Congress, I try to take a look at my district and see who is in my district and try to learn and study and figure out who is going to get helped by these things. And it was easy to see how the high-tech industry with Dell Computer, one of our great neighbors in Williamson County, it was easy to see what is going to happen there. But I look further down to that dairy farmer in Stephenville, Texas, in Erath County. This is not a little dairy farm operation in Erath County. We are talking about one of the most important parts of the agriculture industry in Texas. The area in my district produces over $40 million to the Texas economy every year in milk and dairy product production. And under the CAFTA agreement, doors are going to open to them that are going to allow them to sell their dairy products in Central America.
Right now they face duties of between 60 percent and the World Trade Organization allows up to 100 percent of tariffs that can be assessed against our products. With the opening of CAFTA, we are going to be able to open up tariff rate quotas the first year starting at 10,000 metric tons across the six countries, and this will expand as the CAFTA agreement goes forward. The TRQs will grow by 5 percent a year for Central American countries and 10 percent a year for the Dominican Republic until we have got a good access to the market, and it is going to be an outstanding source of sales for our milk and milk-related products that come right from my district.
When I look at that, I see the benefit there. I have had, fortunately, in the recent past, within the last 3 months, the good fortune of going down with the Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs Subcommittee to Nicaragua and Honduras. And we went down there not on the issue of CAFTA. We went down there on other issues, to look at areas where our foreign aid is being used very productively in those countries. And I was able to talk one on one with folks like farmers and small businessmen and politicians that are down there in Nicaragua and Honduras.
First, let me tell the Members that when we see that country and see what really great potential there is in Nicaragua and Honduras, what resources are available, there are plenty of cattlemen who would love to have about half of Nicaragua to run cattle on in Texas. With underground water less than four meters under the ground, I know a lot of cowmen from my part of the State that would love to be able to have some irrigated grass farms down there in Nicaragua. Beautiful cattle country.
Cheap sources of power are available in that area because they have the ability to create geothermal electricity. They have a lot of potential in Central America. But when we talked to those folks, they said, Look, it is all about CAFTA. The future of our country is all about CAFTA.
Let us take Nicaragua. We had a whole bunch of trouble with the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. And as has been said before here, about 20 years ago we had a pretty good fight down there. And for a while the Sandinistas ran the country and ran it absolutely into the ground. And people who opposed the Sandinistas, it is not like political parties here where we will bicker with our opponents and we will talk, but then we all go back and let somebody re-elect us. If one loses to the Sandinistas, they had better get out of the country because these people who were against the Sandinistas had to flee or die.
Today in Nicaragua, underlying like a cancer lying beneath the surface, is the Sandinista Party; and Daniel Ortega still walks the streets down there. But what is he walking the streets with now? He is walking the streets with an offer from Hugo Chavez of up to an unbelievable number, $1 billion, to turn Central America back to the Marxist cause he and Fidel Castro believe in so firmly. He is one of the great threats to the world right now. He is a communist with money, and he is spreading it around. He takes his oil money from Venezuela and is threatening to spread it around because he wants to make sure that the Marxist communist government dominates Central America.
And their only hope is to show how capitalist free trade works. And that is what CAFTA is all about, and that is what they said. They said, This is going to get great support down here. These people, if they can get their markets open, they can get the capital investment they need to grow.
One of the merchants down there I was talking to said, You know what? I do not know why you think you have got to ship your cloth to China and make your shirts and pants and stuff in China. We have a history of making that stuff for you. Let us break down these barriers between our countries. Let us make those things, and you will not have to put it in big containers and ship it across the Pacific Ocean. We can make it just as economically and just as profitably for American companies as they can in China, and we can put it on a train and ship it up into Texas and spread it across the Nation.
That just makes sense to me. That is just good common sense, and CAFTA is good common sense when we get down to it. It meets many requirements that we have.
First and foremost, we help our neighbors. And where the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Brady) and I come from, and as for most of the folks in this country, but certainly in Texas, number one is taking care of our neighbors because we are kind of out in big spaces and, sometimes if we will not take care of our neighbors, they might be the only people we will get a chance to visit with.
So we need to take care of those neighbors. We need to prevent an enemy, a cancer, from growing in Central America that we will wake up one day and find it is growing right across the Rio Grande. And this agreement is part of stopping that cancer. And those people down there say without CAFTA, without a chance for a level playing field in Central America, what is going to happen to us is the Marxists will rise up and we will either be killed or run out of the country. Those countries will never survive with this type of quality people leaving the country.
And then, finally, it is a benefit to our industry and to our people. It is a win-win-win, and for that reason I think Republicans and Democrats are going to join together this week in this House and pass the CAFTA agreement, pass the free trade agreement. It is important to America.
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Mr. CARTER. Absolutely, Mr. Speaker. And if the gentleman will continue to yield, these are our neighbors. These are the people in the Americas. They are part of America. They are Central American. And they know the Chinese are breathing down their necks too, and they are very concerned about that, just as the gentleman pointed out.
This is a win for the United States. It is a benefit to a neighbor that needs to be boosted up politically because when Chavez gets in there and spreads his money around, it could be disastrous. So the gentleman is right. It is a win for us. It is a win for our farmers, our textile manufacturers, and others. They can do assembly work. They have got a lot of skilled labor available in Nicaragua and Honduras. They are wonderful people, just as gentle and kind a bunch of people as I have ever been around. They will be good folks to work with. We need what they have to offer, and they need what we have to offer. It is a good trade. And we always say when we walk away from the day having made a good trade, we feel like it has been a pretty good day. Well, I think we can walk away from this day and feel like we made a pretty good trade.
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