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October 11, 2002
  Contact: Julie Cram
(202) 482-3809

Senior Bush Administration Trade Official Grant Aldonas to Visit Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Oct 13-17
Administration Eyes Future U.S.-Central American Free Trade Agreement

Grant Aldonas, Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade today announced he will travel to Nicaragua and Costa Rica on Oct. 13-17 with the goal of expanding U.S. commercial trade and investment in the Central American region.

"In April 2001, the President outlined his vision for making this the 'Century of the Americas' and launched a new era of cooperation between our regions," said Aldonas. "Deepening and expanding our commercial relationship with the countries of Central America is fundamental to realizing that vision."

In Nicaragua, Aldonas will be the keynote speaker at trade and investment conference CompromisoCentroAmerica, hosted by the Caribbean/Latin American Action (CLAA). The conference will include senior level officials from other U.S. Government agencies; President Bolanos of Nicaragua; senior officials from Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras; and business leaders from the United States and Central America. The event will focus on the need for modernizing the Central American economies in order to attract the foreign investment needed for sustainable economic development.

In Costa Rica, Aldonas will meet with President Pacheco and other senior government officials to discuss that country's challenges as it prepares to negotiate, in conjunction with its Central American neighbors, a U.S.-Central American Free Trade Agreement. In both countries, Under Secretary Aldonas will address members of the local American Chambers of Commerce.

Aldonas further stated, "Open markets and free trade strengthen the imperative for democracy, and provide hope for a brighter and more secure future. I look forward to working with the leaders of Central America to extend the benefits of free trade to the workers and citizens throughout our Hemisphere."

Last January, President Bush announced that the United States would explore the possibility of negotiating a Free Trade Agreement with Central America. On October 1, the Administration formally notified Congress of its intent to enter into Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations with Central America. Those negotiations are likely to begin within the next few months, following completion of ongoing FTA negotiations in Chile.

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