- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 22, 2004

CAFTA advances

Central American presidents were getting nervous when they learned that progress was being made on a U.S. trade agreement with Australia while their trade pact seemed to be stuck in the Washington bureaucracy.

Two weeks ago, Presidents Abel Pacheco of Costa Rica, Francisco Flores of El Salvador, Oscar Berger of Guatemala, Ricardo Maduro of Honduras and Enrique Bolanos of Nicaragua wrote to President Bush to urge him to sign the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).

They noted their “satisfaction on the conclusion of negotiations … after a year of intensive work.” They also reminded Mr. Bush that the agreement to eliminate trade tariffs will “help consolidate democracy, the rule of law and economic prosperity.”

Late last week, they got the welcome news that Mr. Bush had notified Congress that he plans to sign the agreement and had urged legislators to approve of the deal.

The Central American presidents promised Mr. Bush they would fight against protectionist pressures to secure passage of the pact in their legislatures.

Diplomatic traffic

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:

Today

• President Mikhail Saakashvili of the Republic of Georgia, who addresses Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies tomorrow and meets with President Bush on Wednesday. He is accompanied by Foreign Minister Tedo Japaridze, Defense Minister Gela Bejuashvili, Interior Minister Giorgi Baramidze, Finance Minister Zurab Noghaideli and Education Minister Alexander Lomaia.

• Gunnar Lund, Sweden’s deputy finance minister, who holds a news conference at 4:15 p.m. at the Inter-American Development Bank. He also meets with Treasury Secretary John W. Snow.

• Nicholas Sherry, a member of the Australian Senate, who joins Sen. Larry E. Craig, Idaho Republican, to discuss social security issues in Australia in a 3 p.m. forum in room 628 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

cEduardo Suplicy, a member of the Brazilian Senate, who addresses the New American Foundation on the development of a global middle class.

Tomorrow

• Canadian pharmacist Lothar Dueck, president of the Coalition for Manitoba Pharmacy, and Toronto doctor David Gratzer representing the Manhattan Institute. They hold a noon news conference at the National Press Club to discuss price controls on prescription drugs.

Wednesday

• Bohoun Bouabre, minister of economy and finance of the Ivory Coast.

• Kyrgyzstan Foreign Minister Askar Aitmatov, who addresses the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

• Colombian Finance Minister Alberto Carrasquilla, who addresses the Inter-American Dialogue.

• Venezuelan legislators Calixto Ortega, Nicolas Maduro, Eustoquio Contreras, Ismael Garcia and Cilia Flores who will answer questions at a noon press conference at the Venezuelan Embassy.

Thursday

• Ecuadorean Economy Minister Mauricio Pozo, who addresses the Inter-American Dialogue.

cVitor Gaspar, director-general of the European Central Bank, Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa, a member of the bank’s executive board, and Jurgen Kroger, director of the European Commission. They participate in a forum on the euro, sponsored by the Institute for International Economics.

• Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Passy, who addresses the congressional Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe at a 10:30 a.m. hearing in room 334 of the Cannon House Office Building.

cIsmail Serag Eldine, director-general of Egypt’s Bibliotheca Alexandria, who will hold an 8:30 a.m. press conference at the Egyptian Embassy on political, economic, and social reform in the Arab world.

Friday

• German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who meets President Bush and holds a noon White House press briefing.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison @washingtontimes.com.

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