ITC BEGINS ASSESSMENT OF U.S.-CENTRAL AMERICA FTA
The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) has instituted an investigation to assess the impact of a free trade agreement (FTA) that the President has proposed to establish with Central America (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua).
The investigation, U.S. Free Trade Agreement with Central America: Potential Economywide and Selected Sectoral Effects, was requested by the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) in a letter received November 17, 2004.
The Trade Act of 2002 granted the President authority to negotiate trade agreements which can only be approved or disapproved (but not amended) by the U.S. Congress. The law requires the ITC to prepare a report that assesses the likely impact of proposed trade agreements on the U.S. economy as a whole and on specific industry sectors and the interests of U.S. consumers. The ITC's report, which will be public, is due to the President and the Congress no more than 90 days after he actually signs the agreement, which he can do 90 days after he notifies the Congress of his intent to do so.
In the request letter, the USTR noted that on August 5, 2004, the United States entered into a free trade agreement with Central America and the Dominican Republic (CAFTA-DR). The Commission provided its report for that agreement to the USTR on August 27, 2004.
The USTR further stated that on October 1, 2004, the Dominican Republic enacted a tax on beverages sweetened with high fructose corn syrup that is incompatible with the Dominican Republic's obligations under the CAFTA-DR. The USTR said that he informed the Congress on October 1 that he would not recommend including the Dominican Republic in the legislation to implement the agreement if the tax remains in place. To that end, the letter said, the Administration is taking steps to move forward, if necessary, with a free trade agreement with Central America.
The ITC will hold a public hearing in connection with the investigation on January 18, 2005. Requests to appear at the hearing (one original and 14 copies) should be filed no later than 5:15 p.m. on January 4, 2005, with the Secretary, U.S. International Trade Commission, 500 E Street SW, Washington, D.C. 20436. For further information, call 202-205-1816.
The ITC also welcomes written submissions for the record. Written submissions (one original and 14 copies) should be addressed to the Secretary of the Commission at the above address and should be submitted at the earliest practical date but no later than 5:15 p.m. on January 26, 2005. All written submissions, except for confidential business information, will be available for public inspection.
Further information on the scope of the investigation and appropriate submissions is available in the ITC's notice of investigation, dated December 21, 2004, which can be downloaded from the ITC Internet site (www.usitc.gov) or may be obtained by contacting the Office of the Secretary at the above address or at 202-205-1816.