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Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. DeWINE. Mr. President, DR-CAFTA is good for my home State of Ohio, and it is good for our country.

I was in the House of Representatives in the 1980s when significant strides were made toward democracy in Central America. We all remember that struggle. We all remember the resources that were put into Central America by the United States. It is time for us to refocus on Central America. If Central America is going to flourish, if democracy is going to continue in Central America and the economy is going to develop there, this is an essential component of that, an essential piece of that. While it is true that DR-CAFTA is only one piece of the puzzle, it is an important piece in determining the economic health of our neighbors to the south. Also, it is important to our own Nation as well.

DR-CAFTA is about fairness. It is about reciprocity. It would provide U.S. exporters with the same market access to Central America that Central American exporters unilaterally received through the past 20 years through various trade agreements. These trade agreements led to a one-sided lowering of tariffs. Currently, approximately 80 percent of Central America's exports enter the United States duty free. This unilateral tariff reduction helped Central American countries export to the United States but left U.S. producers facing steep and often prohibitive tariffs when they tried to export their own goods into Central America.

With DR-CAFTA, more than 80 percent of U.S. manufacturing exports to the region will be duty free immediately, and the remaining tariffs will be phased out over 10 years, including the up to 15 percent tariffs on some of Ohio's top exports to the region such as chemicals, electrical equipment and appliances, machinery, plastics, rubber, paper, processed foods, and transportation equipment. For Ohio's agricultural producers, DR-CAFTA would eliminate tariffs on 50 percent of U.S. exports immediately and most remaining duties within 15 years.

A perfect example of the benefits of DR-CAFTA is a situation faced by Heinz. Heinz has a catsup production facility in Fremont, OH, where they produce 80 percent of the catsup consumed in the entire United States. Heinz also produces numerous other condiments throughout the United States. Yet Heinz faces 15 to 47 percent tariffs on their products when they try to export to Central America. DR-CAFTA will change that. CAFTA will help ensure that the up to three generations of workers in Fremont, OH, in that factory will have jobs for themselves, jobs for their children when they grow up. This is just one example of why Ohio needs DR-CAFTA and why this entire country needs DR-CAFTA.

Another good example is Polychem, located in Mentor, OH. They have been in business for over 30 years. They have grown to more than 200 employees. They manufacture industrial strapping but cannot export into the Central American market competitively now because of high tariffs. DR-CAFTA would level the playing field for Polychem, allowing them to expand their exports and grow jobs in Ohio.

By requiring Central American countries to lower their tariffs on U.S. products, the United States would be able to sell into a consumer base 45 million strong that already today buys American. The 45 million citizens represented by the DR-CAFTA agreement purchase today more U.S. goods than the 1.53 billion citizens of India, Indonesia, and Russia combined. DR-CAFTA will simply increase that.

Not only do these consumers already buy America but, significantly for my State, they buy Ohio. In the past 5 years, Ohio exports to the DR-CAFTA region have grown by 90 percent, far outpacing their demands for exports from any other State in America. In 2004 alone, Ohio exported $197 million in manufactured goods to the region, including chemical and manufacturing goods, plastics, rubber products, fabric milled goods, electrical equipment, and appliances. These are just the largest categories. Each and every Senator could easily come to the Senate today and add a list similar to this.

The list of DR-CAFTA support is long in my home State of Ohio. In Ohio, the Ohio Pork Producers Council, the Ohio Soybean Association, the Ohio Poultry Association, the Ohio Dairy Producers, the Ohio Cattlemen's Association, the Ohio Farm Bureau, the Ohio Farm Growers, and the Ohio Wheat Growers Association all support DR-CAFTA. Those are just the supporters in the Ohio agricultural sector.

While many are helped by free trade, we understand whenever we have free trade legislation or free trade there are some individuals in society who are hurt. We need to make sure we always are concerned about them, that we pass legislation that assists them, and we must continue in this Congress to do that. Yet if we turn our backs on free trade, we would ultimately have far more unemployed Americans, and our economy would be a fraction of what it is today.

For example, in the first year after the enactment of the United States-Chile Free Trade Agreement, Ohio's exports to Chile grew 20 percent; and since NAFTA was enacted in 1993, Ohio's combined exports to Canada and Mexico have increased by more than 106 percent.

More exports means more jobs for Ohio and more jobs for our country as a whole.

Mr. President, as I said already, DR-CAFTA is good for Ohio, it is good for the United States. I urge my colleagues to vote in favor of this important free-trade agreement. But let me say one additional thing. As much as I support DR-CAFTA, there is something else that needs to be done, and that is this Congress needs to pass trade legislation that will assist the country of Haiti.

Last year, the Senate passed an important trade bill for Haiti, only to see that trade agreement die in the House of Representatives. I have raised this issue with the administration and with my colleagues in both the House and the Senate. Haiti, the poorest country by far in our hemisphere, arguably needs our attention the most. To leave them out and to not pass trade legislation to assist them is shortsighted, it is wrong, and it is not helpful. We make a mistake by leaving them out.

If nothing is done by this Congress soon to pass a trade agreement that will be of assistance to Haiti, it will really be a deathblow to what remains of Haiti's economy, and we will be seeing boats swollen with Haitians heading back to our shores again.

Mr. President, I simply implore my colleagues, as well as the Bush administration, that after CAFTA is passed, we look again to legislation that I have proposed with many of my colleagues to be of assistance to Haiti. It is the right thing to do from a humanitarian point of view, but it is also the right thing to do from a foreign policy point of view as well.

I thank the Chair and yield the floor.

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