Associated Press | 14 Feb 2008
House Panel Extends Andean Trade Pact
By JIM ABRAMS
WASHINGTON (AP) - A House panel on Thursday approved a 10-month extension for a trade program providing reduced tariffs for exports from the four Andean nations of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.
The Ways and Means Committee agreed by voice vote to extend the Andean Trade Preference Act until the end of the year. The full House is expected to vote on the matter before the act expires Feb. 28.
Congress enacted the program in 1991 with the goal of reducing illegal drug production in the Andean region by promoting legitimate industries.
Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., said he had sought a longer extension but agreed to 10 months "to accommodate the range of opinions on the issue of renewal."
Republicans balked at a longer extension as part of a strategy of pushing Democrats to bring up legislation approving a bilateral free trade agreement with Colombia.
The shorter extension, said Rep. Jim McCrery of Louisiana, the panel’s top Republican, would provide the time needed "to continue our dialogue, which I hope will lead to passage of the U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement this year."
Supporters of that free trade deal argue that it would require Colombia to lower or eliminate tariffs on U.S. goods. The trade preference act is one-way, lowering duties on products from the Andean nations but not on U.S. products.
The Democratic-led Congress last year approved a free trade deal with Peru, but has resisted bringing up the Colombia agreement, citing human rights violations in that country.
The Bill is H.R. 5264
On the Net: Congress: http://thomas.loc.gov/