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The American Soybean Association (ASA) today applauded the signing of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) at the Organization of American States in Washington, D.C. If the United States Senate approves the final agreement, CAFTA will improve and enhance trade opportunities between the United States and the Central American countries of Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Exports of U.S. soybeans, soybean meal and soybean oil to these countries currently account for more than $260 million in annual sales.”On behalf of U.S. soybean producers, I congratulate the Bush Administration for a job well done,” said ASA President Ron Heck, a soybean producer from Perry, Iowa. “This agreement will solidify our position as the preferred supplier of soybeans and soybean products to these Central American nations, and open new opportunities for exports of U.S. livestock products. For that we are grateful.”CAFTA would immediately eliminate tariffs imposed on the exportation of U.S. soybeans, soybean meal and soybean flour. Tariffs on U.S. exports of soybean oil bound for these countries will be reduced over a 12 to 15 year period. These actions are expected to improve and facilitate the exportation of U.S. soybeans and soybean products to CAFTA countries, which may assist in keeping out competitive soybean products.Duty-free quotas on all pork and pork products will increase each year, and tariffs also will be eliminated. Although it will take 15 years, U.S. pork exports to CAFTA nations will become completely duty-free in 2019. Domestic swine production accounts for 23 percent of all U.S. soybean meal consumption.”Eliminating tariffs and trade barriers that limit U.S. soybean exports is a top priority of the ASA,” Heck said. “CAFTA is good for U.S. soybean farmers, and for the many industries and communities that also benefit economically from soybean production.”Soybeans were planted on 28 percent of the United States’ cropland last year, and are the highest value U.S. agricultural commodity export. Half the value of the $15 billion U.S. soybean crop is exported each year as whole soybeans, processed soymeal and soyoil, or in the form of value-added foods such as pork, poultry, beef, dairy and fish products. The U.S. soybean industry has strongly supported expanding international trade by reducing tariffs and eliminating other trade barriers to increase access and encourage demand for soy and livestock products in global markets.