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Lobbyists push for deal with Peru, but vote remains elusive

Miami Herald | Sat, Jul. 22, 2006

Lobbyists push for deal with Peru, but vote remains elusive


The business community is off and running in its attempt to push the latest Latin American free-trade agreement through Congress.

But don’t expect Congressional approval of the U.S.-Peru Free Trade Agreement any time soon, trade experts told a business meeting in Coral Gables on Friday. With a week left before the House of Representatives heads into its summer recess, the vote will be held in the fall at the earliest, either before or after the November elections.

’’It’s up to the [House] leadership,’’ Deputy Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Bennett Harman said during an Andean Trade Panel organized by the Council of the Americas at the Biltmore Hotel.

Harman, who was one of the lead negotiators of the trade pact, said that the Senate has said it would hold a informal markup of the pact next week. The House did its markup this week, but that won’t allow time for the bill to be considered before the recess.

Peru had pressed Washington to approve the free-trade accord before President Alejandro Toledo turns the presidential sash over to his successor, Alan García, on Friday.

Harman called it a ’’fascinating agreement’’ that gives U.S. exporters greater access to Peruvian markets, investors better legal protection and pharmaceutical companies control over their data on drug testing. Peru will gain permanent access to the U.S. market for the duty-free products it already exports.

The Miami meeting coincided with the start of lobbying campaigns by both trade boosters and critics of free-trade agreements.

Panel members and business leaders in the audience said that the private sector needs to spend more time educating the public on trade. But former Ambassador Ambler H. Moss, who is of counsel at the Greenberg Traurig law firm, said, ``Selling it out there in the hinterland is a difficult thing.’’

 source: Miami Herald