Canton Repository

July 28, 2005

House narrowly OKs free-trade agreement

By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON — Rep. Ralph Regula, an opponent of major trade agreements in the past, joined a 217-215 House majority in approving the Central American Free Trade Agreement just after midnight.

“I have always been negative, but this is different,” said Regula, R-Bethlehem Township.

He said economic benefits for his congressional district, the promise of lower sugar prices and the prospect of closer ties between the United States and Central America persuaded him to support the agreement, a top priority for President Bush.

Rep. Bob Ney, R-St. Clairsville, broke with the majority of Republicans in opposing CAFTA. Ney said he could not support a treaty that “would do nothing to address” the $600 billion trade imbalance, job loss in Ohio, outsourcing of American jobs and illegal immigration.

Reps. Ted Strickland, D-Lisbon, Sherrod Brown, D-Lorain, and Tim Ryan, D-Niles, also voted against CAFTA.

The agreement, approved by the Senate on June 30, would lower trade and investment barriers between the United States and the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Costa Rica.

In his district, Regula said, the agreement “will mean more jobs in the short-term as farmers, food processors and other manufacturers will now be able to export to this region without the 10 to 30 percent tariffs on their goods.”

In the long-term, he added, increased sugar imports from Central America would reduce the cost of sugar in the United States, benefiting makers of jams, confections and baked goods.

He said beneficiaries would include J.M. Smucker Co. in Orrville, a Heinz frozen food plant in Massillon and Nickles Bakery in Navarre.

Organized labor and other opponents contend CAFTA would make it easier for American companies to move production overseas, resulting in job losses in the United States.