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CAFTA Damage Report: Rep. Steven LaTourette, Either Duped or Dishonest on CAFTA

Cleveland Republican Says His Last-Minute Flip-flop on CAFTA to Vote “Yes” Was Done to Obtain Tariff Cuts on Central American Plywood for Local Furniture Company, But Plywood from Central America Has Been Duty-Free for Decades

By Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Just days after reaffirming his longstanding commitment to constituents that he would vote against the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), an expansion of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio) flip-flopped and became a deciding “yes” vote on the agreement, which eked through the House of Representatives 217 to 215.

The day after CAFTA passed the House, LaTourette justified his CAFTA flip-flop by saying that the head of a furniture manufacturing company in his district that uses plywood had asked him to vote for CAFTA because it would cut an 8 percent tariff on plywood imported from CAFTA countries, thus allowing the company to maintain furnituremaking jobs in the district. However, plywood – and almost all wood products – has long been duty-free when imported into the United States not only from the CAFTA nations but from scores of other developing countries that also qualify for coverage under the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) and its follow-up program, the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act (CBERA).

“There are only two explanations for Rep. LaTourette’s claim that he flip-flopped to vote for CAFTA based on this plywood business: He was duped or he is being dishonest. Neither is becoming conduct for a congressman,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch.