The U.S. House passed the U.S. Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) by a whisker-thin 217-215 vote in late July. All but 27 House Republicans supported the measure and all but 15 Democrats opposed it.

One week later, President Bush signed H.R. 3045 into law, saying CAFTA will end unfair tariffs against American products “and help ensure free trade is fair trade.” CAFTA will eliminate tariffs on 80% of U.S. exports to Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. Most imports from these countries already enter the U.S. duty-free.

Where the U.S. beef industry is concerned, the six CAFTA countries currently enjoy duty-free access to the U.S. market, but U.S. beef exporters face prohibitive tariffs as high as 40%, according to the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA). Due to these prohibitive tariffs, beef exports to these countries are currently limited, NCBA says.