Guest Column by DAVID DREIER

This summer, Congress has a historic opportunity to advance democracy, secure the United States against burgeoning threats, and help American families. It won't require deploying troops or establishing government-sponsored jobs programs. One simple vote in Congress will help us achieve these goals: a vote to enact the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA).

After decades of civil war, coups, and Communist insurgencies, democratically-elected leaders are governing the Dominican Republic and Central American countries, and these leaders are united in their support of DR-CAFTA. Nicaraguan President Enrique Bolanos recently argued that DR-CAFTA is "a chance to lock in the democratic future for Central America." That is why defeating the agreement has been a primary goal of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Cuba's Fidel Castro as they seek greater influence in our region. Enacting DR-CAFTA is critical to our national security and an opportunity to show that the United States remains committed to Ronald Reagan's vision for democracy and peace in this hemisphere.

DR-CAFTA also presents incredible economic opportunities for middle income families and workers here at home. Nearly all products from DR-CAFTA countries enter the United States duty-free, but the U.S. still pays hefty tariffs on the products we export to Central America. DR-CAFTA will eliminate tariffs on U.S. goods, allowing small businesses and other exporters to use those dollars to create new, high-paying jobs.

Expanding trade means more money in the pockets of American consumers. For the first ten years of NAFTA, the U.S. economy created 20 million new jobs and real hourly wages grew 14 percent, giving American consumers greater purchasing power. In fact, NAFTA's income gains and tariff eliminations have resulted in an annual economic gain of $930 per year for every American family.

The most overlooked benefit of DR-CAFTA is that it will help the U.S. and Central America unite to compete with China. Barriers to trade are sending thousands of Central American textile and manufacturing jobs to China, where labor is cheaper. If jobs continue to drain out of Central America, unemployed Central American immigrants are sure to seek economic opportunity in the United States. DR-CAFTA will ensure these jobs stay here and secure economic prosperity in our own backyard, reducing illegal immigration and the U.S.-China trade imbalance. In fact, a study by the U.S. International Trade Commission recently found that DR-CAFTA will reduce our overall trade deficit by $756 million.

DR-CAFTA is a win-win for businesses, workers and consumers in the United States and Central America. It deserves our enthusiastic support.

Republican David Dreier represents California's 26th Congressional District, which includes La Cañada Flintridge.

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