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Congressman Cole Supports Free Trade Legislation

July 28, 2005
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Cole voted today for the Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) to reduce trade barriers and help promote American exports. Congressman Cole has spoken to numerous Oklahoma groups, including many agricultural groups, which have been supportive of this legislation.

“Free and fair trade is a hallmark of all successful market economies. By removing barriers to foreign markets, we can increase exports and create jobs, across the country and here in Oklahoma," Congressman Cole said.  "Reduced and eliminated tariffs on U.S. products will make them more affordable to consumers in Central America and the Dominican Republic. Increased consumer demand for U.S. products will generate more job growth."

In 2004, Oklahoma exported $38 million worth of merchandise to the CAFTA-DR region (Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua.) According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, Oklahoma's 40 percent increase in exports to CAFTA-DR from 2003-2004 was the tenth fastest among the 50 states. The DR-CAFTA countries comprise the 2nd largest U.S. market in Latin America.

"CAFTA-DR will boost Oklahoma's exports by providing new markets for our state's products. This free trade agreement will level the playing field by making a two-way-street that provides U.S. suppliers the same access as other competitors," Congressman Cole said.

Despite over $1.6 billion in U.S. farm exports in 2003, CAFTA-DR countries continue to impose high tariffs and other barriers on most agricultural products, including Oklahoma’s key exports. Currently about 80 percent of the regions exports enter the United States duty-free, while U.S. goods exported to the CAFTA-DR regions face significant average tariffs.

This free trade agreement would immediately provide duty-free treatment to 80 percent of U.S. industrial products and 50 percent of U.S. agricultural products exported to the region, with the remaining duties eliminated after 10 years.

“CAFTA-DR is also very important from a national security standpoint because it supports democracies in Central America. CAFTA-DR's dual economic and social benefits are crucial to the future of our country. Improved economic conditions in the DR-CAFTA region will help to reduce the number of illegal immigrants looking for economic opportunities in the U.S," Congressman Tom Cole said.

The Senate passed this legislation on June 30, 2005. It will now go to the President for his signature.