MIAMI - U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick today met
with Sonia Guzman, Secretary of Industry and Commerce of the Dominican Republic, to
move ahead with negotiations to integrate the Dominican Republic into the FTA
currently being negotiated between the United States and five nations in Central America. The
two countries are planning to hold the first formal negotiating round in the
Dominican Republic in January, beginning with a public launch.
"We've been working closely and effectively with Secretary Guzman
for well over a year to reach this point, and we now stand ready to begin bilateral FTA
negotiations with the Dominican Republic. During our 90-day notice and consultation
period with the U.S. Congress, which just ended, we heard considerable bipartisan
support for an FTA with the Dominican Republic. So today begins what I expect will be a very
productive and positive FTA negotiation," said Zoellick. "The Dominican Republic already
is a big market for the United States, and we're pleased to work together to reduce
barriers bilaterally, as well as in the ongoing Free Trade Area of the Americas negotiation."
In a Trade and Investment Council (TIC) meeting in Washington
November 3-4, both sides reviewed specific provisions of the U.S.-Chile Free Trade
Agreement and discussed the state of Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) negotiations. In
addition to exploring various topics such as IPR, services, investment, and dispute
settlement, the Dominican team presented its ideas on topics for negotiation and ways to
facilitate eventual integration of all seven economies next year. The United States offered to establish
a Trade Capacity Building Working Group for the U.S.-Dominican Republic negotiations that,
in future meetings, will also include participation by representatives of international
institutions, the private sector, and non-governmental organizations that play an important part in
this effort. Total U.S. funding for trade capacity building activities in the Dominican
Republic was $5.3 million in fiscal year 2003.
The Dominican Republic has long supported the hemispheric economic
integration envisioned by the FTAA. Negotiations with the Dominican Republic
will therefore provide further momentum for the FTAA negotiations as countries observe
the benefits of regional integration that this agreement will yield.
"We will soon get down to the hard work of bringing home a deal
that will benefit workers, farmers, businesses and consumers in the region," said Zoellick.
"It is my hope to visit the Dominican Republic early next year to meet with government
officials and public stakeholders as the negotiations begin."
The Dominican Republic is the largest economy in the Caribbean
Basin region. An FTA will expand U.S. access to the Dominican Republic's market, which
already receives $4.3 billion in U.S. exports annually and approximately $1.4 billion in U.S.
investment. The Dominican epublic also enjoys strong trade and business ties with Puerto
Rico, which will be enhanced y the FTA. The markets of the Dominican Republic and Central
American combined would create the second largest U.S. trading partner in Latin
America. ssistant United States Trade Representative for the Americas
Regina Vargo will lead the U.S. negotiating team. Secretary of Industry and Commerce Sonia
Guzman will lead the negotiations for the Dominican Republic.