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Daily News - 16 April 1998

Free trade agreement to be signed with Central America
Today, 16 April 1998, the Dominican Republic will sign its first free trade agreement, a major concrete step in the direction of regional integration. The agreement will be signed by President Leonel Fernández and the chiefs of state of El Salvador, Costa Rica, Honduras and Nicaragua. Guatemala will be represented by its Minister of Economy.
The treaty basically contains the rules for regional economic integration. It is seen as an instrument that can broaden the trade of goods and services and investment within the signatory nations.
The agreement will be concluded within six months time when the list of goods and services to be excluded from the tariff exemptions will be presented by the new trade partners. Congress in the individual countries must also ratify the agreement. An impasse over the inclusion of Dominican free zone exports has not been an obstacle to the signing of the agreement. Negotiators said the free zones will be included.
President Leonel Fernández will host President José Figueres of Costa Rica; Armando Calderón Sol, El Salvador; Arnoldo Alemán, Nicaragua; and Carlos Roberto Flores from Honduras in Santo Domingo today. The President of Guatemala Alvaro Arzu Irigoyen will be represented by Minister of Economy Juan Mauricio Wurmser as Arzu is on an official trip to Peru.
The Central American free trade treaty will be signed in the Salon de Embajadores hall of the National Palace at 7 pm. That same evening, the chiefs of state will attend a reception in their honor at the Salón de las Cariátides of the National Palace.
On the next day, the statesmen will travel with President Fernández to Santiago de Chile, on board a Chilean Air Force jet to attend the Summit of the Americas.
The free trade agreement with Central America is a first step in the direction of integrating a strategic regional alliance promoted by the Dominican government between Central America and the Caribbean Community (Caricom). The Dominican government expects to sign a similar free trade agreement with Caricom in August of this year resulting in the desired larger trade block. The DR would be the liaison between Central America and the Caribbean, a regional trading block of 60 million consumers that would place the central region of the Americas in a better negotiating position before the United States, the European Union and the World Trade Organization.
The Dominican negotiating team was made up by Eduardo Latorre, Luis Manuel Bonetti, Frederic Emam Zade, Federico Cuello, Gregorio Lora, Gabriel Castro, Luisa Fernández, Miguel Angel Heredia Bonetti and Arturo Pellerano. Central America was represented by Eduardo Ayala Grimaldi, Carlos Murillo, Azucena Castillo, Guillermo Castillo, Hernan Erazo, Eduardo Zablah, Jose Leon Desanti, Reginaldo Panting and Noel Sacadsa.
The chief Dominican negotiators were Deputy Minister of Foreign Relations Frederic Emam Zade, assisted by Federico Cuello, Deputy Technical Minister of the Presidency.
Guatemala is the most populated nation of the treaty signatories, with 11.2 consumers. Dominican Republic follows with 8.2 million, El Salvador with 5.8 million, Honduras with 5.6 million Nicaragua with 4.3 million and Costa Rica with 3.4 million.

Private business supports treaty
The Consejo Nacional de la Empresa Privada, the largest business organization, says it is in favor of the treaty but insists that Congress must rule lowering import tariffs to levels similar to those existing in Central America. While the maximum tariffs in Central America are between 15-19%, in the Dominican Republic imports are still affected by tariffs as high as 35%, as Congress has delayed in passing reforms to the tariff code. The business organization also urged advances in the restructuring of the economy, and that there be an acceleration of the government efforts to privatize government enterprises. The CONEP emphasized the urgency of accelerating the privatization of the CDE in order to reduce the effects the high cost of electricity has on Dominican production and competitiveness. The CONEP recommended that the conditions be created so the Dominican service sector can participate advantageously in trade with the new Central American partners. Also urged that clear rules be set so that the participation of the free zones in the process does not affect non-free zone Dominican companies. The CONEP urged that the list of products to be exempt from the treaty be presented in 120 days.

President Fernández to travel to Chile
President Leonel Fernández will travel to Santiago de Chile on 17 April. The official commission is as follows: Eduardo Latorre, Minister of Relations Foreign; Luis Manuel Bonetti; Minister of Industry and Commerce; Ligia Amada Melo de Cardona; Minister of Education; Daniel Toribio Marmolejos; Minister of Finance; Attorney General Abel Rodríguez del Orbe; Mayor General Luis Manuel Florentino, chief of the military assistant; Manuel Guaroa Liranzo, personal assistant to former President Joaquín Balaguer. Liranzo was present at the first Summit of the Americas held in Miami. At the time he accompanying then President Joaquín Balaguer.
The Dominican delegation will stay at the Hotel Sheraton Santiago.

Dominicans indifferent as to congressional and municipal candidates
A Listín Diario-Wall Street Journal Americas survey carried out in February revealed that most Dominicans do not feel represented "at all" by the municipal and congressional candidates chosen by the political parties for the 16 May elections. 32.1% said they would abstain from voting. The survey showed that among those who said they would vote more would cast their vote for the government Partido de la Liberación Dominicana. The survey was sponsored by the Wall Street Journal, the Listín Diario and 16 other newspapers of the Americas. It indicates that in the congressional and municipal election, the PLD would obtain 29.2% of the vote, the PRD 26.2% and the PRSC 6.6%. Some 757 men and women, of all ages, educational and economic levels were interviewed. Of those interviewed, 78% prefer a democratic rather than an authoritarian government.

Five government enterprises to be privatized
El Siglo reported that the Comisión de Reforma de la Empresa Pública, the committee entrusted with the privatizing of state enterprises, is giving priority to the capitalization of Molinos Dominicanos, Molinos del Norte flour mills, the tobacco companies Compañía Anónima Tabacalera and Tabacalera de Santiago, and the state airline Compañía Dominicana de Aviación.

Move on with investigations into disappearance of journalist
President Leonel Fernández instructed the intelligence services of the nation to prepare a dossier containing all investigations carried out on the disappearance of Narcizo González, a university professor who opposed the Balaguer regime. Minister of the Armed Forces, Ruben Paulino Alvarez, Police Chief Jose Anibal Sanz Jiminián and the chief of the local Investigations Bureau (DNI), Sigfrido Pared Pérez met with the President at the National Palace. Also present at the meeting were Abel Rodríguez, his assistant Angel Castillo and members of the Comisión de la Verdad, a committee that is concerned with the solution of the Narcizo case.

Beaten up journalist's case goes before government of Cuba
The case of Dominican journalist Vianco Martínez who was beaten up at the Havana international airport by Cuban security officers was presented by the United Nations to the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Relations, the Listín Diario reported. Martínez is the communications officer for the UN Population Fund in the Dominican Republic. Martínez was told on Sunday, 12 April at the Cuban airport that his name was not on the passenger list for the Cubana de Aviación flight he had booked. He was told he would have to wait for the Thursday, 16 April flight to leave Cuba. When he protested and asked for his case to be heard by a superior office, he received as a response a beating by three agents that reportedly acted on instructions of an officer of the airline.

No date for visit of Fidel Castro
Minister of Foreign Relations Eduardo Latorre said that while Cuban President Fidel Castro has accepted an official invitation to visit the DR, made by high level Dominican government executives in Cuba for the formal opening of the Dominican consulate in Havana, the date has not been set. Latorre said that Castro said that in the "upcoming months a date would be set". According to a recent interview of Wall Street Journal Americas-Listin Diario, most Dominicans do not have a good opinion on the Cuban statesman. 60.8% of those polled expressed their opinion of Castro as a very bad or bad. Dominican President Leonel Fernández received much better ratings with 65.2% rating him as very good or good. Dominicans rated Bill Clinton as very good or good with 66.4%.

Deportations of Dominican criminals suspended
Ramón Urbaez, reporting from New York for Hoy newspaper, said that the New York authorities have suspended the program whereby illegal residents who had committed non-violent crimes with sentences still pending were deported to their countries of origin. The program was instated to save money to the New York penitentiary system. The program is suspended after the justice and prison authorities determined that several of those that were deported have returned and committed similar crimes. In 1996, 1,648 Dominicans were deported as part of the program, according to the newspaper.

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