CBSN

Bush Stumps For Free Trade

President Bush shakes hands with supporters after speaking at the Gaston College Myers Center Auditorium on CAFTA, Friday, July 15, 2005 in Dallas, N.C. Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) signed by the United States a year ago and passed the Senate on a 54-45 vote two weeks ago, would end or sharply lower trade barriers with the five Central American countries of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.
AP
President Bush toured a North Carolina textile mill on Friday to try to drum up weak Southern support for his free trade pact with Central America.

"Get that bill to my desk," Mr. Bush said in remarks aimed at Congress, saying it would help bring more jobs to the United States, not threaten them as critics of the pact contend.

Mr. Bush toured the R.L. Stowe Mills plant in nearby Belmont, N.C. and stood among giant spools of white cotton thread and 480-pound bales of raw cotton. Then he appealed for the treaty's support in a speech at the Gaston Community College here.

The president mixed promoting the trade pact with talking about the ongoing war on terror and the conflict in Iraq. "We will complete the mission," he said.

He also trumpeted "25 consecutive months of jobs gains."

He said that CAFTA was "a historic opportunity" to take advantage of the recovering economy.

Ahead of his visit, Mr. Bush met at the White House with President Antonio Saca of El Salvador, one of the countries that is a party to the trade agreement. The two leaders sat alongside each other in the Oval Office during a brief picture-taking session.

The Central American Free Trade Agreement passed the Senate on a 54-45 vote two weeks ago. It could come up as early as next week in the House, where its fate is less certain. It faces near-solid Democratic opposition and only lukewarm GOP support.

Mr. Bush's visit was to the district of Rep. Sue Myrick, R-N.C., the only one of North Carolina's 13-member House delegation to publicly endorse the measure. She accompanied him here on Air Force One.

Also with Mr. Bush was his embattled deputy chief of staff, Karl Rove, currently at the center of a controversy over his role in a leak that disclosed the identity of a CIA officer.

A youthful protester with a sign, "Fire Bush's Brain," stood along Mr. Bush's motorcade route.

It was a reference to one of Rove's nicknames, "Bush's Brain."

In a light moment, Rove handed a reporter a half-filled container of Tylenol PM and joked, "You look like you need this."

The trade agreement, signed by the United States a year ago, would end or sharply lower trade barriers with the five Central American countries of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. It would also apply to the Dominican Republic, a Caribbean nation.