WASHINGTON — President Bush on Sunday reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to forging free trade policies in Latin America, after a meeting with Central American leaders in San Salvador, El Salvador.
It was the President’s last stop in a three-country swing through the region. The day before, Bush told Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo the administration continues to back congressional plans to renew the Andean Trade Preference Act and expand it to include duty-free trade breaks for apparel. A bill has passed the House and a Senate version is awaiting action. Some ATPA proponents in recent weeks have criticized the administration for not being active enough in lobbying Congress. “Trade means jobs. Trade means that people who want to work are more likely to find jobs,” Bush told reporters. Bush has said he wants to pursue a free trade agreement with Central America in advance of a Free Trade Area of the Americas, slated for completion by 2005. The President in recent weeks has come under fire by free-trade proponents for slapping punitive tariffs on foreign steel.
El Salvador, a leading supplier of imported apparel to the U.S., has set as its own goal of securing a free-trade agreement with the U.S. by 2003.
Earlier last week, Bush and Mexican President Vincente Fox penned a border security agreement. The pact is like one between the U.S. and Canada and allows for cargo containers at approved manufacturing, distribution or other facilities to be inspected and electronically sealed to ensure speedy border crossings.

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