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IDB to support Central American nations in pursuit of Free Trade Agreement with the United States

The Inter-American Development Bank will play a key role in trade capacity building in five Central American nations as they pursue a free trade agreement with the United States.

Negotiations for the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) were launched today in Washington, D.C. by the United States Trade Representative, Amb. Robert Zoellick, and the trade ministers of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.

In response to requests from the Central American nations, the IDB will assist them in their preparations and negotiations for the CAFTA, as well as in the implementation of the resulting commitments and in adjusting to the challenges and maximizing the benefits stemming from free trade.

In these efforts the IDB will work in concert with other multilateral institutions, including the Organization of American States (OAS), the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the World Bank and the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI). In addition, numerous NGOs will make contributions in their areas of expertise.

The specific areas in which trade capacity will be strengthened will vary from country to country. Last year each of the five Central American nations drafted a national action plan in which it identified and prioritized its negotiation, implementation and adjustment needs.

The IDB, along with the OAS, ECLAC and the U.S. Agency for International Development, provided technical and financial resources to support the preparation of the action plans. As negotiations ensue, the Central American countries will look to the IDB and the other institutions for further assistance to address identified needs.

“The IDB views trade capacity building as a key priority and is committed to continue working with Central America throughout the negotiations and the implementation of CAFTA,” said Nohra Rey de Marulanda, manager of the IDB’s Integration and Regional Programs Department.

The process of strengthening trade capacity has and will continue to be driven by the beneficiary countries, rather than by donors, Marulanda added. The United States and the Central American countries view the success of these efforts as crucial to the CAFTA negotiations.

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