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Last Updated: Friday, 30 December 2005, 18:32 GMT
US set to miss Cafta start date
President George W Bush signs up to Cafta, surrounded by senators and Central American representatives
President George Bush signed up to Cafta in August
The US has admitted it will miss its 1 January target date to implement the controversial Cafta free trade pact with six Central American nations.

President George W Bush signed up to Cafta back in August, despite strong opposition from both Democrats and Republicans, and US trade unions.

Cafta (Central American Free Trade Agreement) aims to remove trade tariffs between the US and the other members.

Opponents in the US say it will put American jobs and industries at risk.

The other Cafta members are Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.

The US is now looking to write Cafta into law for 1 February or 1 March.

'Peace & Prosperity'

"It's not uncommon for the implementation process to take several months," said Steve Norton, a spokesman for the US Trade Representative.

"We want to do this as soon as possible, but we want to make sure it is done the right way."

Cafta was approved in the House of Representatives by just two votes in the summer.

Mr Bush has insisted it will be good for the US and will "advance peace and prosperity" throughout the region.

US textile and sugar industries, and trade unions had argued heavy job losses in the US could result because of competition from countries where workers' rights are poorly protected.

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