ATA supports new trade agreement

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The American Trucking Associations supports the Central American Free Trade Agreement, signed by President Bush Tuesday, Aug. 2, saying it will increase domestic and international economic opportunities for all countries involved.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association believes the pact could add to problems created by the North American Free Trade Agreement. Spokesmen for the Truckload Carriers Association and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration had no comment on the agreement.

CAFTA creates a level playing field for U.S. trade in Central America by ensuring the seven member countries – El Salvador, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama and the Dominican Republic – operate under the same trade rules.

Prior to CAFTA, most Central American and Dominican products were allowed into the United States untaxed, but U.S. exports faced stiff tariffs. CAFTA will eliminate tariffs on 80 percent of U.S. manufactured goods and 50 percent of agricultural products.

ATA said that CAFTA will raise the standards in each country because more goods will be available at cheaper costs.

“This measure will boost the flow of goods and eliminate international obstructions to production, distribution and economic opportunities,” said Bill Graves, ATA president and CEO.

Greg Owen, chairman of the Food Transporters Conference, an ATA affiliate, said allowing the United States into such markets will lead to new growth and profitability in U.S. agriculture.

Todd Spencer, OOIDA’s executive vice president, said that the overwhelming number of truckers saw no benefit from NAFTA, which he said is increasing problems with cross-border trucking. “So adding CAFTA to that is just another layer of problems that have never been resolved,” Spencer said. “There isn’t a scenario where we would advise a U.S. trucker to drive his truck into Mexico.”

Because of CAFTA, more than 25,000 U.S. jobs are expected to be created in the first year alone, and as many as 130,000 new positions will be created throughout the next decade, ATA said. U.S. agricultural exports are expected to grow by $1.5 billion annually.