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Baucus Seeks Trade Preference Reform

Monday, March 15, 2010

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D‐Mont.) is leading efforts for reform of US trade preference programs accorded to developing countries.

Baucus, who  convened a recent hearing to explore reform options, urged meaningful change that will expand benefits for least developed countries, add enforceable labor criteria and provide a long‐term extension of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), the Andean Trade Preferences Act (ATPA) and the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act (CBTPA), all of which will expire later this year unless Congress extends them.

Originally established in 1974, trade preference programs give developing countries duty‐free access to the US market for certain products. The GSP program includes a variety of products from over 130 developing and least developed countries. ATPA, which Congress established in 1991 to encourage Andean countries to diversify their economies away from illicit drug production, provides Colombia, Peru, and Ecuador with additional duty‐free benefits. CBTPA was established in 2000 to provide additional duty‐free access to the US market for certain textile and apparel products from eight Caribbean Basin countries including Haiti.

“Successful reform means certainty," commented Baucus. "US companies relying on these imports, investors and beneficiary countries need to be sure US preference programs will remain in place over the long-term. American companies need this certainty in order to make sound investment decisions to grow and hire new workers."

“Successful reform also means meaningful and enforceable eligibility criteria," added Baucus. "We must ensure that our preference programs encourage strong labor standards, even as they improve economic standards, and we must enforce the eligibility criteria systematically and regularly. And successful reform means providing benefits to countries that need them the most."

Baucus said that he will continue to work with Senator Grassley, the finance committee's ranking Republican, and the House Ways and Means Committee to pass legislation to provide additional trade benefits to Haiti. He urged the United States to assist in Haiti’s earthquake recovery efforts by creating additional incentives for investment in Haiti’s apparel sector.