Guatemala Entry to CAFTA Waiting for Approval

Guatemala is still waiting.

The Central American country had expected to be part of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) by June 1 after its Congress made the necessary changes to its national laws on May 18 to conformto CAFTA rules. But the office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), which must approve those changes, hasn’t finished its review process.

“The implementation review process takes time,” said Steve Norton, a USTR spokesman in Washington, D.C. “They are making progress and hope to complete it soon.”

But no date was given for Guatemala’s entry into CAFTA, the trade pact that lets nearly all goods traded between the United States and Central America enter dutyand quota-free.

Guatemala would be the fourth country to enter the trade pact, a group that now includes Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras. The Dominican Republic still hasn’t made the necessary changes to its laws. And Costa Rica is the only Central American country whose Congress has yet to approve the trade deal, the first step to becoming a CAFTA member.

The delay will inevitably cost Guatemala’s apparel and textile industry, which has seen more investment going to Nicaragua since it became a CAFTA member earlier in the year. —Deborah Belgum