The Miami Herald
Sat, Oct. 4, 2008

Developing nations get boost


Congress on Friday approved extending trade preferences for Colombia, Peru and more than 100 other developing nations, preventing a suspension of the program at the end of this year.

The measure provides $1 billion in benefits on exports from those nations. It now goes to President Bush for his signature.

The administration supports the renewal, said Sean Spicer, a spokesman for the U.S. trade office.

The bill continues through the end of 2009 two separate measures that allow developing countries to ship their products duty free to the United States.

The Andean nations of Colombia, Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador get special benefits aimed at boosting their exports and dampening production of illegal drugs.

A second measure applies to more than $30 billion of imports from 134 developing countries worldwide. .

''Everyone recognized that we not should let these programs languish, and the final result is an affirmation of our commitment to our developing country partners,'' Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., the chairman of the House Ways and Means committee, said after the vote.

The vote on the preferences further eases pressure on lawmakers to pass long-delayed free-trade agreements with Colombia, South Korea and Panama. Both the Andean trade program and the Generalized System of Preferences were set to expire at the end of this year.

The Andean program allows those nations to export apparel and other goods to the United States duty-free, giving them a commercial lift that is meant to discourage the cultivation of illicit drugs.

Ecuador and Bolivia, which face criticisms for their treatment of U.S. corporate investors, had their trade benefits extended only for six months and the accords would need to be renewed again in the middle of next year.

Citing a lack of effort at fighting drug production, the Bush administration said last week that it may withdraw the benefits from Bolivia.

The system of preferences applies to 134 countries and covers 4,650 different products.