NAFTA, signed on December 17, 1992 by President George H.W. Bush, has been in effect since January 1994. It is the largest preferential trade agreement in the world. The agreement eliminated tariffs and other barriers to trade and investment between Canada, Mexico and the United States, with a 15-year entry. The phase-in period ends in 2008. The three countries are the largest market in the Western Hemisphere, with 430 million inhabitants and a gross domestic product (GDP) of $13.400 billion. The three countries` total exports total more than $1 trillion, or 15.4% of total world exports. In 2003, imports amounted to $1.7 trillion, or 23% of the world total. The objective of NAFTA is to remove barriers to trade, facilitate cross-border trade in goods and services between countries, promote fair competition in the free trade area, increase investment opportunities and ensure effective protection and respect for intellectual property rights. NAFTA will be complemented by two additional ancillary agreements on environmental and labour standards. The trade liberalization programme was implemented as planned or earlier. More than 90% of goods are currently duty-free. (20) As a result, negotiations on the ACA were suspended in November 2004.
Instead, the United States and six countries signed the free trade agreement between the Central Republic and the Dominican Republic in August 2004. These countries included Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic. In 2013, CAFTA-DR increased total merchandise trade by 71%, or $60 billion. Venezuela joined Mercosur`s four founding countries in 2012 as a full member, but was suspended at the end of 2016. Today, all four have a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of about $3.4 trillion, making it one of the world`s largest economic blocs [PDF]. In contrast, Latin America`s second largest trading group, the Pacific Alliance, which includes Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru, has a total GDP of about $2 trillion. CARICOM has advanced its regional integration since the founding treaty. Intra-regional trade is virtually free. All tariffs and most trade restrictions have been removed, although some exceptions are maintained. Efforts have been made to harmonize national customs laws, but the legislation has not been fully implemented. The trade group has established a common standards regime for trade in goods and is setting up a Caribbean Regional Organization for Standards and Quality (CROSQ). The CET is fully implemented in most countries, although Member States have the right to negotiate bilateral trade agreements with third countries.