Burr Votes in Support of CAFTA

Cites new side agreements good for textile and benefits for agriculture; calls for increased enforcement of trade agreements

Washington, D.C. - Senator Richard Burr today voted in favor of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), which passed the Senate by a vote of 54-45.

"I believe CAFTA, with the new side agreements, will provide opportunities for economic growth in North Carolina. I am pleased that the side agreements addressed my initial concerns about CAFTA's textile provisions because without these assurances, I could not have supported CAFTA," Burr said after the vote.

Burr outlined his support for CAFTA in remarks on the floor of the United States Senate on Thursday. In his remarks, Burr applauded efforts by the textile industry and the Administration to negotiate side agreements concerning:

• Pockets and linings - The U.S. Trade Representative will utilize the CAFTA amendment process to help ensure that $100 million in U.S. pocketing and lining exports to the region are not lost.
• Cumulation - The Bush Administration has reaffirmed its commitment to negotiate an aggressive customs enforcement agreement with Mexico before the cumulation provisions of CAFTA can be used.
• Trade Preference Levels - Nicaragua has committed to allocate its trade preference levels (TPLs) to its current non-qualifying US trade, ensuring that existing US business is not impacted by this provision.

Burr also called for vigorous enforcement of trade agreements. "The key to making this trade agreement an economic success for North Carolina, though, is enforcement," Burr said on the floor. "I am a proponent of free trade, but I am an even bigger proponent of fair trade. The rules must be enforced. I intend to make sure that neither this nation nor our partner countries turn a blind-eye to the provisions set out and the assurances made in CAFTA."

The House of Representatives has yet to vote on the agreement.

Additional Excerpts from Senator Burr's speech:

"CAFTA will provide garment makers in the region with a critical advantage in competing with Asia, particularly Chinese, garment manufacturers. This is crucial for one very important reason: those regional garment makers buy their yarn, their fabric, from American companies. Many of these companies are based in North Carolina. Those American companies buy their cotton from American farmers."

"Without CAFTA, more and more garment manufacturing will simply find its way to China to be manufactured. As Central American manufacturers are forced out by Chinese manufacturers, more American jobs will be put at risk - for the simple fact that Chinese manufacturers do not use American yarn, they do not use American fabric, and they do not use American cotton."

"Current agricultural trade between the United States and the region can be a one-way street. That street is often closed to our farmers by regional barriers. CAFTA will remove those barriers, increasing access for U.S. farmers. With exports accounting for 20% of North Carolina's farm cash receipts almost $1.5 billion, my State's farmers stand to make tremendous gains in Central American markets."