New Free-Trade Agreement up for House Vote Next Week

Supporters of the new Central America Free Trade Agreement between the United States and six other countries are looking for support as the U.S. House prepares to vote on the issue next week. A Houston-area lawmaker says the trade agreement makes sense.

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Congressman Kevin Brady is a Texas Republican who says CAFTA, as it's known, would mean millions of dollars to Houston and billions to the state. CAFTA would include Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. The agreement would reduce or eliminate many tariffs on U.S. goods imported by those countries. Brady says the Texas delegation needs to stand up for increased trade. "Trade is a huge of Houston's economic lifeblood and will grow even larger in the future," he says. "Voting against trade in Houston is like voting against cars in Detroit. You don't do it because it works against our economic future."

An agreement was signed in May and narrowly approved by the Senate in June. The House is expected to vote on CAFTA next week. Debbie Russell is with the Texas Fair Trade Coalition and says the deal would hurt workers here and do virtually nothing for the economy. "The closeness of the Senate vote really points to the fact that this is a very weak trade deal," she says. "It has no support from people in Central America and has little support from people in this country that actually understand what the numbers and the figures are from the losses in NAFTA."

Critics also say the deal could encourage more large U.S. companies to export jobs to those countries, attractive because of their cheap labor. Supporters say CAFTA would create 3000 new jobs in Texas the first year.

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