Senate approval of a free trade agreement with six Latin American countries could be good news for Oklahoma. Senators Tom Coburn and Jim Inhofe voted for the agreement which passed 54-45.

Dr. Coburn said CAFTA will help protect jobs in Oklahoma, reduce illegal immigration and help America win against other nations that are eager to gain an economic and political foothold here. He singled out agricultural and textile producers.

CAFTA could level the playing field for American workers. That relationship with Central America is now a one-way street. Those six nations ? Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic ? have now agreed to allow American producers to export there without facing unfair penalties.

Oklahoma's exports to Central American countries are among the fastest growing in the nation. Between 2000 and 2004 Oklahoma exports to Central America grew by $6.9 billion or 22 percent. Oklahoma's 40 percent increase in exports to Central America between 2003 and 2004 was the tenth fastest in the nation, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Oklahoma companies and organizations supporting CAFTA include the Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce, the Oklahoma Farm Bureau, Oklahoma Wheat Growers, the Cupid Textile Plant in Blackwell, the General Mills Plant in Vinita and the Whirlpool Plant in Tulsa, according to Sen. Coburn.

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