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Bush OKs free-trade pacts with Chile and Singapore

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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Bush signed legislation Wednesday to begin free trade with Singapore and Chile, saying that opening world markets is essential for U.S. prosperity and the spread of freedom.

Bush said he anticipated signing many more free-trade pacts. Negotiations are under way with Australia and Morocco and countries in Central America and southern Africa, he said, and will begin soon with Bahrain and the Dominican Republic.

"We support free trade in America because it is vital to the creation of jobs," Bush said in an East Room ceremony. "It's vital to the success of our economy. Exports accounted for roughly one quarter — one quarter — of our economy's growth in the 1990s," Bush said, repeating a mantra of the Bill Clinton administration.

Critics say the agreements could cost U.S. jobs by giving companies an incentive to move to cheaper labor markets.