Canton Repository

July 1, 2005

DeWine, Voinovich vote for free-trade pact

By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON — Sens. George Voinovich and Mike DeWine joined a Republican majority Thursday to approve a free-trade agreement with six Latin American nations, sending the pact to the House where it faces longer odds.

In a 54-45 vote, the Senate approved the Central American Free Trade Agreement, which would reduce tariffs and other trade barriers between the United States and the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

Voinovich’s past criticisms of U.S. trade law enforcement had raised doubts about whether he would support the pact during the Senate debate preceding the vote.

“I believe that the United States’ failure to properly enforce its existing trade agreements has contributed to the growing skepticism of the American people about the benefits of trade,” he said.

A typically reliable vote for free trade, Voinovich, R-Ohio, broke with the majority of Congress when he voted against free trade agreements with Australia and Morocco last year.

More recently, he has been pleased with the administration’s efforts to enforce trade laws, especially those protecting patents, he said.

Reps. Ralph Regula, R-Bethlehem Township, and Bob Ney, R-St. Clairsville, have yet to decide whether they will vote for the agreement, which is generally supported by business and opposed by labor unions.

Regula opposed the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1993, a year before Ney was elected to Congress.

The area’s Democratic lawmakers, Reps. Sherrod Brown of Lorain, Ted Strickland of Lisbon and Tim Ryan of Niles are opposed to CAFTA. They argue the agreement would encourage American companies to shift production to those nations.

Both Voinovich and DeWine, R-Ohio, said the agreement would benefit Ohio farmers and manufacturers, helping them to establish business relationships and increase trade with the countries covered by the pact.
“It would provide U.S. exports with the same market access to Central America that Central American exporters unilaterally received for the past 20 years through various trade agreements,” DeWine said.