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U.S. starts free trade agreement negotiations with Dominican Republic

U.S. starts free trade agreement negotiations with Dominican Republic

   U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick will head to the Dominican Republic Wednesday for the first of three free trade negotiating rounds with the Caribbean country.

   The goal is to integrate the Dominican Republic into the recently completed negotiations with El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua on a U.S.-Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).

   The markets of the Dominican Republic and Central American combined would create the second largest U.S. export market in Latin America, after Mexico, the U.S. Trade Representative said.

   “Many developing countries such as the Dominican Republic already enjoy duty-free access to the United States for their products through preference programs such as the Caribbean Basin Initiative,” the U.S. Trade Representative said. “Slashing tariffs and reducing other trade barriers will open opportunities for U.S. exporters, as well as lower barriers that Dominican goods face.”

   To integrate the Dominican Republic in CAFTA, the U.S. Trade Representative    will negotiate market access for government procurement, investment services, financial services, textiles, industrial and agricultural goods.

   The United States will also set up a trade capacity-building working group for the Dominican Republic. This group will comprise of representatives from international groups, private sector and non-governmental organizations. The U.S. government spent $3.5 million on trade capacity initiatives in the Dominican Republic in fiscal year 2003.

   A free trade agreement will expand U.S. access to the Dominican Republic’s market, which already receives $4.3 billion in U.S. exports annually and about $1.4 billion in U.S. investment, the U.S. Trade Representative said. The United States imports about $4.2 billion from the Dominican Republic each year.

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