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Walden Announces Support for CAFTA Given Economic Benefits to Second District

Location: Washington, DC

Walden Announces Support for CAFTA Given Economic Benefits to Second District
Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Difficult decision made after detailed consideration of trade agreement and lengthy call with Secretary of Agriculture and U.S. Trade Representative last week

WASHINGTON, DC - After months of careful deliberation, U.S. Congressman Greg Walden (R-OR) today announced that he will vote for the Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) when it comes before the House of Representatives for a vote this week.

Following numerous meetings and conference calls with input from farmers, ranchers, labor unions, businesses and residents throughout the Second District, which covers 20 counties in central southern and eastern Oregon, Walden concluded that the trade agreement presents more positives than negatives for the Second District and would foster long-term economic benefits for the region.

Last Friday, Walden hosted an hour-long phone conference between a number of Second District agriculture representatives and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns and U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman. Agriculture representatives were split between supporters and opponents of CAFTA-DR, and the primary purpose of the call was to provide a forum for questions to be addressed thoroughly be the nation's top trade and agriculture officials.

"When it comes to trade, the most frequent complaint I've heard over the years is 'why do other countries get to sell their goods in America without facing any tariffs, and yet our producers have to pay tariffs when we try to sell products into other countries?' CAFTA-DR rights this wrong by eliminating most tariffs immediately, and phasing out others over time," said Walden.

He added, "Today, American farmers are losing market share in Central America because competitors in other countries have already reached agreements with Central American countries to eliminate tariffs for their producers. It became clear to me that if Congress fails to pass CAFTA-DR, we run the risk of losing more market share and seeing more potato and vegetable processing plants shut down and more Northwest workers lose their jobs," said Walden.

"Passing CAFTA-DR also means America will have a more formal process to addresses concerns regarding sanitary-phyto-sanitary issues, so that member countries cannot use artificial barriers to prevent American access to their markets. As one cherry grower in The Dalles told me a week ago Saturday, 'we will always face disputes over artificial barriers, but if we can't get to equalized tariffs, we will never make the sale in the first place.'" said Walden.

"Finally, my concerns regarding American sovereignty and control of our borders were answered fully. No Central American country will be able to force us to change our laws. Additionally, the agreement does NOT contain any provisions that would open our borders to additional immigration from Central American countries. These issues were of serious concern to many people in the part of Oregon I represent," said Walden.

CAFTA-DR calls for reciprocity and fair trade between the United States and The Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua through the elimination of duties on American products exported to those countries. Currently, those countries are able to enjoy the benefits of duty-free trade with the United States, being able to see their products in our markets without cumbersome tariffs that American goods face.

* Fruits (apples, pears, blueberries, strawberries, cranberries, cherries and grapes): Oregon is currently the nation's fourth largest exporter of fruits and preparations with exports of $108 million annually. Fruit exports to the six CAFTA countries are forecasted to increase by $2 million per year with the elimination of tariffs that can currently go as high as 60%.

* Vegetables (potatoes and asparagus): Vegetables are Oregon's second largest agricultural export and currently face tariffs as high as 60%. It is estimated that vegetable sales will increase by $3 million per year.

* Wheat: Oregon has $104 million in export sales in wheat currently facing tariffs up to 60%, with World Trade Organization (WTO) rules permitting tariffs over 100%. It is estimated that Oregon will increase wheat exports by $1 million per year.

* Beef: Beef is Oregon's second largest source of farm cash receipts and faces tariffs as high as 30%, though the WTO permits these to rise as high as 79%. It is estimated that Oregon will increase beef and pork exports by $1 million per year.

* Dairy: Dairy provides Oregon's third largest source of farm cash receipts with tariffs as high as 60% and the WTO permitting tariffs as high as 100%. It is estimated that Oregon will increase dairy exports by $1 million per year.

CAFTA-DR has been endorsed by the Oregon Farm Bureau, Oregon Potato Commission, Oregon Wheat Growers League, Northwest Horticultural Council, American Forest and Paper Association, Oregon Sheep Growers, Pacific Northwest International Trade Association, Wasco County Fruit and Produce League, Fruit Growers League, Oregon Sweet Cherry Commission, United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association, American Licorice Company (headquartered in Bend, OR), Heinz and ConAgra Foods (these two companies each employ over 1,000 people in the Second District).

In addition, the state of Oregon stands to see increased economic activity in other industries. High tech companies such as Intel and Kodak as well as apparel and athletic equipment giant Nike have all expressed their support for this trade agreement.

"These companies infuse our economy through employment of thousands of individuals in Oregon, including many communities in the Second District," said Walden. "Increased sales will only further enhance their local economic activity, as well as the local businesses where folks spend their pay checks."

While a specific date has not been announced, the House of Representatives is expected to consider passage of CAFTA-DR this week. The Agreement passed the Senate with a bipartisan vote of 54-45, with both Oregon Senators voting in favor of it.

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