Opposition to the Central American Free Trade Agreement appears to be building among some congressional Republicans, despite general support within the party. Two GOP congressmen, Mike Simpson and Butch Otter, with close ties to the sugar industry have said that they will under no circumstances vote for the bill.

Democrats oppose the agreement almost universally because of potential harm to the U.S. textile industry. Republicans from southern states, where most of the textile industry is located, are uneasy about the trade agreement, including Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Mike Johanns, secretary of agriculture, said in a press conference that he would be meeting personally with Chambliss to attempt to enlist his support. CAFTA-DR proponents point out that virtually all products from the nations in question now enter the United States freely, while Central American countries slap high tariffs on U.S. exports.

“Currently, Central American countries and the Dominican Republic are allowed to charge very high tariffs, limited only by WTO commitments, which would allow the tariffs to even go higher,” said Johanns. “The current WTO levels are on average 42 percent in Costa Rica, 41 percent in the Dominican Republic, 49 percent in Guatemala, 35 percent in Honduras and 60 percent in Nicaragua.”