Committee on International Relations
U.S. House of Representatives
Henry J. Hyde, Chairman

CONTACT: Sam Stratman, (202) 226-7875, March 16, 2005

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For IMMEDIATE Release

U.S. Trade Agreements with Latin America
Burton Schedules Wednesday Review

BACKGROUND: In 1994, 34 nations from the Western Hemisphere met at the first-ever Summit of the Americas to begin discussing prospects for a region-wide, comprehensive free trade agreement – dubbed the Free Trade Area of the Americas, or FTAA. Although three drafts of the FTAA have been completed, the talks stalled in 2004, while the U.S. and Brazil – as the co-chairs of the Trade Negotiating Committee – work to revise the overall negotiation strategy. And just last year, the United States signed the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA, or DR-CAFTA) with Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic. The agreement must now be passed by each nation’s government and the U.S. Congress. In the aftermath of the 1980s debt crisis, much of Latin America embraced broad economic policy reforms that included major strides towards trade liberalization. Trade negotiators face a tremendous challenge in trying to meet the divergent interests of countries that vary significantly in size, economic capacity, and political interest. Of particular interest to the U.S. are issues of direct investment, intellectual property rights and government procurement. Advocates of DR-CAFTA, including all six Central American and Dominican governments, assert that it will reinforce political stability by calling for institutional reforms, such as greater transparency in government administration and competitive bidding for government procurement. Proponents also claim CAFTA governments will have increased mechanisms to improve their ability to enforce labor, environmental, and intellectual property standards, and that local civic groups will be empowered to demand greater accountability form their governments and private firms. “While I do not believe that trade agreements alone are the cure-all for the problems in our Hemisphere,” said U.S. Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN), “I do believe that the economic prosperity which these agreements can provide will, in fact, help create the conditions necessary for alleviating poverty, eradicating drug trafficking, upholding the rule of law, and strengthening the emerging democratic and civil institutions throughout the region.”

WHAT:                Subcommittee Oversight Hearing: U.S. Trade Agreements with Latin America Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere,
                              U.S. Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN), Chairman

WHEN:                1:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 13, 2005

WHERE:             Room 2172, Rayburn House Office Building

WITNESSES:     Kevin Brady, Member of Congress;
                              Xavier Becerra, Member of Congress;
                              Cass Ballenger, former Member of Congress;
                              Regina K. Vargo, Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for the Americas, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative;
                              Jerry Cook, Vice President of International Trade, Sara Lee Branded Apparel, Sara Lee Corporation;
                              Michael Massey, Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary, Payless ShoeSource, Inc.;
                              Linda Chavez Thompson, Executive Vice President, The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO);
                              The Most Reverend Álvaro Leonel Ramazzini Imeri, Bishop of San Marcos, Guatemala and President of Bishops’ Secretariat of Central America and Panama;
                             John G. Murphy, Vice President, Western Hemisphere Affairs, U.S. Chamber of Commerce; and
                              Mark Dresner, Vice President for Corporate Communications, Engelhard Corporation.

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