Dems say Central American trade deal in trouble

May 27, 2004 at 5:10 PM

WASHINGTON, May 27 (UPI) -- Hill Democrats predict a new free trade deal between the United States and Central America will not receive congressional approval.

The day before the signing of the Central American Free Trade Agreement, some Democratic opponents predicted it would fail because it does nothing to address the concerns of many members in areas like labor standards.

In addition, Reps. Sander Levin, D-Michigan and Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif, predicted in a news conference that a good number of House Democrats and Republicans from farming states would be forced to oppose the deal because it opens up U.S. markets to increases agricultural imports, including sugar and fruits.

A coalition of opposition groups including the AFL-CIO, Friends of the Earth and National Family Farm Coalition Thursday took issue with the agricultural and pharmaceutical provisions in the deal, noting an extension of patent protections for medicines would inhibit access to prescription drugs in the region.

Such complaints spell trouble for the deal, particularly in an election year, but it remains unclear when President Bush will send the deal to Congress for its approval.

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