The US Senate grudgingly approved the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) on Thursday night, by a vote of 54 to 45.

President Bush has championed the pact as a way of "strengthening democracy and advancing prosperity" in the western hemisphere, despite opposition from lawmakers in textile-producing states.

The agreement now moves to the US House of Representatives.

If approved by the House, the pact will remove trade barriers between the United States and Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic.