WASHINGTON (Aug. 8)—President Bush signed the Central American Free Trade Agreement after it passed the House of Representatives by a 217-215 vote.
The pact, which eliminates tariffs between the U.S. and six Central American countries, is hailed by business interests as a victory for free trade but blasted by unions and consumer groups as certain to erode U.S. manufacturing jobs.
Members of the United Steelworkers union, which also organizes the nation´s rubber workers, picketed the Nashville offices of Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., because of his pro-CAFTA vote. Meanwhile, Public Citizen announced the inauguration of a "CAFTA Damage Report" to determine what pro-CAFTA congressmen received for their votes and the effects of the pact on their districts.
The only tire manufacturing facility in any CAFTA nation is Bridgestone/Firestone´s plant in San Jose, Costa Rica. "We supported passage of CAFTA and support the president on it," said Steven Akey, BFS vice president of government affairs. Akey had no comment on how the agreement will affect his company specifically, but said, "we believe free trade is a good thing in our global economy."
A spokesman for the Rubber Manufacturers Association said the organization did not follow the CAFTA issue.