MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The National Cotton Council has gone on record in its opposition to the Central American Free Trade Agreement and is urging Congress to delay approval of the agreement until its textile provisions can be “thoroughly reviewed and significantly improved.”

Council leaders said they had worked with officials in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and Department of Commerce in an effort to help shape a CAFTA agreement that would serve the interests of the U.S. cotton industry.

But the agreement announced by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick late last year failed to satisfy those requirements, according to NCC officials.

"Our analysis suggests that the most realistic opportunity we have for improving the economic outlook for U.S. cotton through trade agreements is to influence the source of apparel and home product imports and, therefore, the origin of textiles and fibers consumed in them," NCC President and CEO Mark Lange said.

"This awareness explains our support for Western Hemisphere trade agreements that preserve benefits for signatory countries and deny unnecessary benefits for third countries,” said NCC Chairman Woody Anderson. “Such agreements would facilitate the use of U.S. cotton and U.S. textiles in apparel and home products as opposed to Asian cotton and textiles."

Anderson noted that "Maintaining viable US cotton and textile industries hinges on our ability to achieve a fair and equitable trading environment that does not permit China to dominate world textile trade but preserves reasonable opportunities for the United States and its other trading partners."

Sharing these views, NCC's board of directors unanimously reaffirmed its CAFTA policy in the following Feb. 1 resolution:

"The NCC has consistently stated its strong belief that a good CAFTA agreement is essential to preserving a viable US cotton and textile industry. To this end, the Council has urged the Administration to negotiate a CAFTA with provisions that preserve benefits for signatory countries and deny unnecessary benefits to third countries.

"The Council's Board of Directors reaffirms its conviction that a good CAFTA is essential to the economic viability of the U.S. cotton and textile industries and pledges its support for passage of an agreement that fosters benefits for signatory countries. Inasmuch as the CAFTA agreement in its current form does not meet this fundamental objective, the Council (a) opposes passage of the current CAFTA agreement and (b) urges Congress to defer consideration of CAFTA until such time as the textile provisions are thoroughly reviewed and significantly improved."

Other commodity groups, including the National Association of Corn Growers, the USA Rice Federation and U.S. Rice Producers Association have voiced support for the agreement, one of the few issues on which the major commodity groups have split in recent years.

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