In January 2002, U.S. President George W. Bush made CAFTA a priority and won the power of Congress to “fast track” to negotiate. Negotiations began in January 2003 and an agreement was reached with El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua on 17 December 2003, as well as with Costa Rica on 25 January 2004. In the same month, negotiations with the Dominican Republic for CAFTA membership began. In May 2004, the Salvadoran American National Network, the largest national federation of Central American community organizations in the United States, spoke out against CAFTA, which they said was not ideologically motivated: “As immigrants, we deeply understand the potential benefits of better transnational cooperation. We would support an agreement that would increase economic opportunities, protect our common environment, guarantee workers` rights and recognise the role of human mobility in deepening already deep relations between our countries. However, the cafta agreement falls well short of this vision.  As part of the negotiations, national action plans for trade capacity building have been developed for each Central American country. These national action plans define the needs and priorities of trade-related technical assistance. These documents have been presented to government agencies, international organizations and businesses, as well as to NGOs that have tools and institutions to meet these needs. Documents have also been developed to outline sources of business capacity development assistance. The draft free trade agreement between Central America and the United States was made public on 28 January 2004.
On February 20, the Office of the President of the United States announced to Congress its intention to conclude a free trade agreement with Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Ancillary letters were published in March 2004 on issues related to agriculture, the environment, financial services, investment, services/investment, telecommunications and textiles. The free trade agreement between the United States and Central America was signed on May 28, 2004. Costa Rica recently concluded the Central American Trade PactWASHINGTON – The United States and Costa Rica today concluded negotiations for Costa Rica`s participation in the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), progressive tariffs and other trade barriers and promote regional economic integration and growth. The United States concluded negotiations with El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua last month. U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick and Costa Rica`s Commerce Secretary Alberto Trejos announced the agreement in Washington. Costa Rica needed a little more time to complete its participation in CAFTA and we are very pleased to have joined its Central American neighbours in this state-of-the-art and modern free trade agreement that aims to develop trade between friends and neighbours,” zoellick said. “With every Central American nation, we have worked to match market access rules to individual circumstances, and this work is now complete with Costa Rica.” In recent weeks, the United States and Costa Rica have resolved outstanding issues in areas such as access to the agriculture, textile and clothing market, as well as professional services. In addition, Costa Rica has made a concrete commitment to gradually open up its telecommunications market in three key areas – private network services, Internet services and wireless services – and is committed to establishing a legal framework that should help promote effective market access.