May 15, 2002

White House won't defer import duties

                 WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- The White House said on Wednesday it would
                 not defer duties on imports from four Andean nations to give U.S.
                 lawmakers more time to finish trade legislation.

                 But officials said President George W. Bush would support measures that
                 retroactively would forgive any duties imposed on Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and
                 Bolivia while Congress completes its work.

                 The president ordered a 90-day deferral in mid-February to provide temporary help
                 to Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, which suddenly faced increased duties on
                 about $1.9 billion of their exports to the United States when the 10-year-old Andean
                 Trade Preferences Act (ATPA) expired in December.

                 That deferral ends on Wednesday, and the duties come due on Thursday,
                 prompting a last-minute appeal from Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, a South
                 Dakota Democrat, for Bush to issue another deferral.

                 But the White House stood its ground. "That was an extraordinary extension and it
                 was a one-time extension," White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan said of the
                 deferral that ends on Wednesday. "Now it's time for the Senate to act. There are a
                 number of measures before the Senate that would make the ATPA retroactive once
                 enacted, and the administration would support those."