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Senate panel sends CAFTA to floor, barely

June 29, 2005 at 3:19 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, June 29 (UPI) -- The Central America Free Trade Agreement squeaked out of a Senate panel Wednesday on a tight voice vote that was decidedly not party line.

The Senate Finance Committee action gives an important symbolic victory to President Bush as he presses for congressional passage of the controversial trade pact with the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica and Guatemala, MarketWatch said.

The move, which clears the way for a full Senate vote, came despite the lack of a final deal designed to assuage the sugar industry's concerns that the pact will result in a significant spike in U.S. sugar imports.

Sen. Craig Thomas, R-Wyo., who represents sugar beet farmers, opposed the move, but Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., who was previously undecided, said he would back the proposal.

U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman hailed the committee vote as reflective of its broad support, saying the panel's action was proof of "strong bipartisan support" for CAFTA.

A House panel was set to vote on the treaty Thursday.

© 2005 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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