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Trade Policy Staff Committee; Request for Public Comment on Review of Employment Impact of Proposed United States-Central America Free Trade Agreement

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Office of the United States Trade Representative, Department of Labor.


Request for comments.


The Trade Policy Staff Committee (TPSC) gives notice that the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) and the Department of Labor (Labor) are initiating a review of the impact of the proposed U.S.-Central America Free Trade Agreement (FTA) on United States employment, including labor markets. This notice seeks written public comment on potentially significant sectoral or regional employment impacts (both positive and negative) in the United States as well as other likely labor market impacts of the FTA.


USTR and Labor will accept any comments received during the course of the negotiations of the FTA. However, comments should be received by April 25, 2003, to be assured of timely consideration in the preparation of the report.


Submissions by electronic mail: Submissions by facsimile: Gloria Blue, Executive Secretary, TPSC, Office of the USTR, at (202) 395-6143.

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For procedural questions concerning public comments, contact Gloria Blue, Executive Secretary, TPSC, Office of the USTR, 1724 F Street, NW., Washington, DC 20508, telephone (202) 395-3475. Substantive questions concerning the employment impact review should be addressed to Jorge Perez-Lopez, Director, Office of International Economic Affairs, Bureau of International Labor Affairs, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20210, telephone (202) 693-4883; or William Clatanoff, Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Labor, telephone (202) 395-6120.

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1. Background Information

On October 1, 2002, in accordance with section 2104(a)(1) of the Bipartisan Trade Promotion Authority Act of 2002, 19 U.S.C. 3804(a)(1), the United States Trade Representative notified the Congress of the President's intent to enter into trade negotiations with the five members of the Central American Economic Integration System (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, hereinafter “Central America”). The notification letters to the Congress can be found on the USTR Web site at​releases/​2002/​10/​2002-10-01-centralamerica-house.PDF and​releases/​2002/​10/​2002-10-01-centralamerica-senate.PDF, respectively. The TPSC invited the public to provide written comments and/or oral testimony at a public hearing conducted on November 19, 2002, to assist USTR in formulating positions and proposals with respect to all aspects of the negotiations (67 FR 63954) (Oct. 16, 2002). The formal launch of the negotiations occurred on January 8, 2003 in Washington, D.C. The first round of negotiations took place January 27-31, 2003, in San Jose, Costa Rica, and the second round of negotiations was held February 24-28, 2003, in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The FTA will build on the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI). Since 1985, the U.S. trade relationship with Central America has been driven by U.S. unilateral trade preferences through the CBI. By moving from unilateral trade preferences to a reciprocal trade agreement, the FTA will seek to eliminate duties and unjustified barriers to trade in both U.S.- and Central American-origin goods and also address trade in services, trade in agricultural products, investment, trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights, government procurement, trade-related environmental and labor matters, and other issues. The FTA is expected to contribute to stronger economies, the rule of law, sustainable development, and more accountable institutions of governance, complementing ongoing domestic, bilateral, and multilateral efforts in the region. Finally, the FTA will lend momentum to concluding the Free Trade Area of the Americas negotiations by January 2005.

Two-way trade in goods between the United States and Central America totaled $20 billion in 2001, consisting of $9 billion in U.S. exports and $11 billion in U.S. imports. Leading U.S. exports to Central America include textiles, machinery, electrical Start Printed Page 13359machinery and equipment, and plastics. Leading U.S. imports from Central America include apparel products and edible fruits.

2. Employment Impact Review

Section 2102(c)(5) of the Bipartisan Trade Promotion Authority Act of 2002, 19 U.S.C. 3802(c)(5), directs the President to “review the impact of future trade agreements on United States employment, including labor markets, modeled after Executive Order 13141 to the extent appropriate in establishing procedures and criteria, report to the Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Finance of the Senate on such review, and make that report available to the public.” USTR and the Department of Labor will conduct the employment reviews through the TPSC.

The employment impact review will be based on the following elements, which are modeled to the extent appropriate after those in EO 13141. The review will be: (1) Written; (2) initiated through a Federal Register notice soliciting public comment and information on the employment impact of the FTA in the United States; (3) made available to the public in draft form for public comment, to the extent practicable; and (4) made available to the public in final form.

Comments may be submitted on potentially significant sectoral or regional employment impacts (both positive and negative) in the United States as well as other likely labor market impacts of the FTA. Persons submitting comments should provide as much detail as possible in support of their submissions.

3. Requirements for Submissions

To ensure prompt and full consideration of responses, the TPSC strongly recommends that interested persons submit comments by electronic mail to the following e-mail address: Persons making submissions by e-mail should use the following subject line: “Central America Employment Review.” Documents should be submitted in WordPerfect, MSWord, or text (.TXT) files. Supporting documentation submitted as spreadsheets is acceptable in Quattro Pro or Excel format. For any document containing business confidential information submitted electronically, the file name of the business confidential version should begin with the characters “BC-”, and the file name of the public version should begin with the character “P-”. The “P-” or “BC-” should be followed by the name of the submitter. Persons who make submissions by e-mail should not provide separate cover letters; information that might appear in a cover letter should be included in the submission itself. To the extent possible, any attachments to the submission should be included in the same file as the submission itself, and not as separate files.

Written comments will be placed in a file open to public inspection pursuant to 15 CFR 2003.5, except confidential business information exempt from public inspection in accordance with 15 CFR 2003.6. Confidential business information submitted in accordance with 15 CFR 2003.6 must be clearly marked “Business Confidential” at the top of each page, including any cover letter or cover page, and must be accompanied by a non-confidential summary of the confidential information. All public documents and non-confidential summaries will be available for public inspection in the USTR Reading Room in Room 3 of the Annex of the Office of the USTR, 1724 F Street, NW., Washington, DC 20508. An appointment to review the file may be made by calling (202) 395-6186. The USTR Reading Room is generally open to the public from 10 a.m.-12 noon and 1-4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Appointments must be scheduled at least 48 hours in advance.

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Carmen Suro-Bredie,

Chairman, Trade Policy Staff Committee.

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[FR Doc. 03-6499 Filed 3-18-03; 8:45 am]