Georgia Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss both voted “yes” for the Central American Free Trade Agreement in a U.S. Senate vote June 30, but the state's 13 House members remain divided on the issue. Mr. Isakson and Mr. Chambliss each attributed their vote to a desire to increase export opportunities for Georgia textiles, chemical and paper manufacturers and farmers. “This agreement will benefit our state and this nation tremendously,” Mr. Isakson said in a statement. “Cafta will significantly increase economic opportunities for Georgia businesses and provide additional market access for our state's products.” The Cafta agreement calls for the elimination of 80 percent of tariffs on goods traded between the United States and Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. The legislation passed in the Senate with a 54-45 vote, and Georgia legislators in the U.S. House of Representatives are expected to vote on the issue sometime in mid-July. The Cafta countries together comprise Georgia's ninth largest export destination, with $667 million in exports going there in 2004, an increase of $113 million since 2000. But these Georgia exports currently face seven to 11 percent tariff rates, according to a statement by Mr. Chambliss, who, as chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, was previously opposed to Cafta because he believed it would limit the U.S.'s ability to negotiate agricultural agreements in the future. Mr. Chambliss changed his opinion, however, saying that “[Cafta] would level the playing field" among participating countries. Mr. Isakson likened Cafta to Nafta, noting that Georgia's exports to Canada and Mexico have increased by more than 200 percent since Nafta was signed in 1993. He also said the agreement would increase transparency in the governments of the Cafta signatories and strengthen environmental protection and labor rights in those countries. According to a July 1 poll by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, Georgia representatives are still divided on whether Cafta would be good for Georgia's economy. Republican Reps. John Linder, Jack Kingston, Tom Price and Lynn Westmoreland are expected to vote for Cafta when the legislation goes to the House floor this month. Republicans Nathan Deal and Phil Gingrey were still “undecided” as of July 1, as was Democrat Sanford Bishop. Those “likely to vote no” include Republican Charlie Norwood and Democrats David Scott, John Barrow and Jim Marshall. Representatives “most likely to vote no” are Democrats John Lewis and Cynthia McKinney. Central America and the Dominican Republic together are the 10th largest market for U.S. products. In 2004, trade between the two markets was valued at more than $33 billion. Contact Earl Rogers at the Georgia Chamber at (404) 223-2267 or for more information about the poll of Georgia legislators. Contact Mr. Isakson's office at (202) 224-7777 or Mr. Chambliss' office at (202) 224-3521.