TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (Reuters) - Central American leaders
Thursday called for President Clinton to grant the region free-trade access to
the U.S. economy to help it rebuild from the ravages of Hurricane Mitch.
Clinton is due to review Central America's recovery efforts in a visit
region March 8-11.
On Thursday the presidents of El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa
Rica, as well as representatives from the governments of Guatemala, Belize
and the Dominican Republic met to hammer out joint aid proposals ahead of
The Central Americans will seek similar access to the U.S. economy to that
granted Mexico under the North American Free Trade Agreement
(NAFTA), Honduran President Carlos Flores told reporters after the
meeting. The countries have argued free trade would lead to greater foreign
investment and job creation.
They also called on international lending organizations and industrialized
country to forgive at least 80 percent of the debt owed by Honduras and
Nicaragua, the two hardest hit by Mitch, and for the granting of fresh loans
on favorable terms.
Mitch lashed Central America in late October and early November, killing
least 9,000 and causing an estimated $5 billion in damage to roads, bridges
On Wednesday Commerce Secretary William Daley unveiled U.S.
programs to help Central American countries, including a trade mission and
better weather forecasting.
However, he downplayed chances of NAFTA's expansion to include
Central America, citing likely congressional opposition to such a proposal.
Copyright 1999 Reuters.