Negotiating the Central American Free Trade Agreement may turn out to be the easy part. Now the Bush administration and free-trade allies in Congress face the difficult task of persuading Congress to approve CAFTA, an issue that may have to wait until after the November elections.
"Democrats aren't going to want to give the president any victories on trade," said Claude E. Barfield, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. "I'm sure in an election year the Democrats will make a big deal of it. It's going to be quite close."
"It will be a very substantial fight. It's even betting right now whether it will even pass," said Gary Clyde Hufbauer, a senior fellow at the Institute for International Economics. "It will be the trade drama of 2004."
CAFTA will affect several politically sensitive U.S. manufacturing and agricultural sectors, led by textiles and sugar. Organized labor and environmental groups already are gearing up to oppose the agreement. "It's going to be a bloody battle," said Daniel T. Griswold, associate director for the Center for …