Report: Business chief issues CAFTA threat

June 12, 2005 at 8:39 AM

WASHINGTON, June 12 (UPI) -- A prominent business leader has threatened to cut off campaign contributions to House members who oppose the troubled Central American Free Trade Agreement.

"If you (lawmakers) are going to vote against it, it's going to cost you," Thomas J. Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, warned during a meeting on Capitol Hill of leaders of a 500-plus business-trade association coalition, the Washington Post reported Sunday.

President Bush has made CAFTA, which would create free trade between the United States and five Central American countries plus the Dominican Republic, his top trade priority of the year, the Post said.

However, a major embarrassment for the administration is possible as both sides of the debate over CAFTA have said the agreement is likely to become the first major trade deal to be defeated in more than 40 years.

Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), coordinating the opposition among House Democrats, has predicted that 90 percent of the House will oppose CAFTA.

CAFTA's opponents include organized labor, the sugar industry, most House Democrats, and some southern Republicans under pressure to protect their districts from overseas competition.

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