This week, U.S. trade negotiators embarked on a whirlwind tour of talks in China and Africa. And President Bush visited North Carolina to promote the Central American Free Trade Agreement, or CAFTA.
The accord would end or lower trade barriers with five Central American countries and the Dominican Republic.
In Washington though, CAFTA critics voiced their concerns again this week. And this time the opposition included Central American citizens.
The controversial trade deal would phase out protective tariffs and quotas in 6 Central American countries. But opposition remains strong among the U.S. textile and sugar industries.
CAFTA allows for more sugar shipments into U.S. markets. Despite clauses within the trade measure that limit sugar imports, U.S. sugar growers worry any increase will harm their market.
Their opposition was felt this week by Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman, who voted for CAFTA on the Senate floor two weeks ago. Sugar beet growers in western Minnesota rejected the notion that the U.S. Department of Agriculture could keep surplus imports out of the country through 2007....calling the plan a "band-aid fix for a long term solution."
The Bush Administration has not wavered in its support of CAFTA. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns has discounted sugar industry criticism that the trade deal would harm domestic markets.
The Senate passed CAFTA two weeks ago and the House could take up the measure before the August recess.