What Is the Central America Free Trade Area-Dominican Republic (CAFTA-DR)?

What Is the Central America Free Trade Area-Dominican Republic (CAFTA-DR)?

3 Min.

The trade agreement known as CAFTA-DR removed tariffs between the United States and various Central American countries. This agreement aimed to boost employment opportunities across the nations involved and enhance the working conditions in Central America. It was a crucial aspect of a larger Pan-American trade deal that has since been disregarded.


The accord known as CAFTA-DR, or the Central America Free Trade Area-Dominican Republic, serves as a pivotal treaty fostering trade amongst the United States and several nations of Central America. These include Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. An additional inclusion to this agreement was the incorporation of the Dominican Republic, a sovereign nation situated on a Caribbean island. It is commonly denoted by the acronym CAFTA.

A Comprehensive Look at CAFTA-DR

Origin and Implementation 

CAFTA-DR, a pivotal trade agreement, was enacted into law by U.S. President George W. Bush in 2005 and subsequently ratified by other member nations between 2006 and 2009. It joined forces with other agreements, such as NAFTA, to lay the foundation for integrating Western Hemisphere economies, excluding Cuba, into a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). Regrettably, negotiations for this ambitious initiative faltered beyond a 2005 deadline. In 2020, the considerably larger NAFTA transformed the United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA).

Impact and Controversy 

CAFTA-DR faced opposition and critique. The AFL-CIO decried it for lacking compassion and opportunities for impoverished Central Americans and vulnerable immigrants. Over time, concerns arose that the agreement adversely affected small farmers in Central America, pitting them against American agribusiness giants.

Trade Dynamics and Integration 

Post-implementation, U.S. trade saw a relative decrease with the partner countries. At the same time, Central American economic integration strengthened, leading to it being recognized as the most self-trading region by the International Monetary Fund. U.S. exports to the region consistently surpassed imports, boasting a surplus of approximately $7.5 billion in goods exported in 2018.

Trade Items and Balance 

Noteworthy U.S. exports to Central America encompassed petroleum products, machinery, grains, plastics, and medical instruments, while imports included coffee, sugar, fruits and vegetables, cigars, and petroleum products.


CAFTA-DR, a significant trade pact, eliminated tariffs between the United States and Central American nations. Enacted in 2005 under President George W. Bush, it aimed to enhance employment and labor conditions. However, challenges like opposition from the AFL-CIO and concerns about its impact on small farmers emerged. Despite changing trade dynamics, it fostered economic integration within Central America while the US consistently enjoyed trade surpluses. This pact's goal of broader Pan-American trade integration was not fully realized.

Central America Free Trade Area-Dominican Republic (CAFTA-DR)
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