Five of the seven countries that recently completed a regional free-trade agreement within the Americas have now formally approved that arrangement. The Caribbean nation of the Dominican Republic is the latest to give its assent to the pact widely known simply as CAFTA, the Central American Free Trade Agreement. El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and the U.S. had already approved the agreement. Costa Rica and Nicaragua have yet to.
U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman says he will be talking with representatives of the other nations during "the next few weeks" to set a data for the free-trade agreement to take effect.
CAFTA's effective date is likely to be Jan. 1, 2006.