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Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Miriam Sapiro Concludes the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Commission Meeting in El Salvador

San Salvador, El Salvador – Today, Deputy United States Trade Representative Miriam Sapiro participated in a meeting of the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States (CAFTA-DR) Free Trade Commission (FTC) in San Salvador, El Salvador. During the meeting, Ambassador Sapiro met with Anabel González, Minister of Foreign Trade of Costa Rica; Marcelo Puello, Vice Minister of the Dominican Republic; Héctor Miguel Antonio Dada Hirezi, Minister of Economy of El Salvador; Raúl Trejo Esquivel, Vice Minister of Integration and Foreign Trade of Guatemala; José Francisco Zelaya, Secretary of State, Offices of Industry and Commerce of Honduras; and Orlando Solórzano Delgadillo, Minister of Development, Industry and Commerce of Nicaragua.

Ambassador Sapiro and the CAFTA-DR ministers discussed a broad range of ways to enhance competitiveness in the region and generate new opportunities for all of their countries to realize the benefits of the CAFTA-DR Agreement, with a heightened focus on small- and medium-sized businesses. Ambassador Sapiro underscored the necessity of ensuring full implementation of the Agreement. She also stressed the importance of expanding the benefits of the Agreement to enhance trade facilitation among all of the CAFTA-DR countries. She welcomed the ongoing support and efforts of the Inter American Development Bank in this area.

“I am particularly pleased that we agreed to move forward with a work plan that recognizes the essential role that small- and medium-sized businesses play in fostering job creation and that will help these businesses take advantage of the export opportunities provided by the CAFTA-DR Agreement. Small- and medium-sized businesses are a critical part of our economies and are essential to economic growth across the United States and throughout the CAFTA-DR region,” Ambassador Sapiro said. “I also applaud the adoption of dispute settlement rules and panelist rosters, which will strengthen implementation and enforcement of the Agreement, as well as the actions taken today to enhance the competitiveness of the regional textiles sector and the important contributions of the Inter-American Development Bank to many of our initiatives.”

The FTC endorsed a regional initiative to examine ongoing trade facilitation projects to foster greater regional integration, enhance competitiveness, and expand the benefits of the Agreement. This, among several other initiatives, will support the emphasis on promoting greater participation by small- and medium-sized businesses. The Ministers also released a brochure entitled “Frequently Asked Questions about Opportunities for Small Businesses to Export in the CAFTA-DR Region.” This brochure provides answers to questions for firms that want to expand their business by taking advantage of the CAFTA-DR Agreement and expand their export markets. In addition, the FTC established the Committees on Agricultural Trade and Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Matters as required by the Agreement.

Enhanced regional integration continues to be a top priority and plays a key role in facilitating economic growth and stability in the region. The FTC decided on a number of changes to the Agreement’s rules-of-origin for textile and apparel goods that will facilitate regional trade and integration. The Ministers agreed to increase the cumulation limits to encourage greater integration of regional production through limited reciprocal duty-free access with Mexico and Canada to be used in Central America and Dominican Republic apparel, as called for in the Agreement.

The FTC received reports from the Labor Council, the Environmental Council and Trade Capacity Building Committee.

The text of the joint statement, agreed upon by all countries and released at the conclusion of the FTC, can be found here.

Despite the economic challenges faced by the global economy in recent years, total (two-way) trade between the United States and the Central American partners and the Dominican Republic grew from $35 billion in 2005 to $48 billion in 2010. Intra-regional trade among the Central American countries and the Dominican Republic increased from $4.2 billion to over $6.3 billion over the same period. Foreign investment flows in the region have also been impressive. The average annual investment inflows into the Central American countries and the Dominican Republic in the first four years of the Agreement were $6.3 billion or 123 percent higher than the $2.8 billion annual average during 2000-2005 before implementation.