Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Andean trade preferences

In a speech to the Americas Society/Council of the Americas, John McCain said that the Andean Trade Preference Act will not be  renewed by Congress.

The need to ratify our FTA with Colombia will become even more dire in a few days, as it appears all but certain that Congress will fail to reauthorize the Andean Trade Preference Act, which expires on Saturday. This legislation gives Colombia, along with other Andean nations, privileged access to U.S. markets. It has done wonders for Colombian workers and American consumers alike, and as a result, these trade preferences have been renewed by every Congress for the past 20 years, regardless of which party was in power. If these trade preferences expire this weekend, with no FTA in place, it will be a double slap in the face for Colombia.

I was not aware of that, and it turns out there is a bizarre story behind it that can be summed up as follows: Republicans say are blocking trade because they support trade.  From The Hill:

Republicans had planned a vote to extend the Andean Trade Preferences Act (ATPA), which lowers duties on imports from Andean countries, and the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program, which helps U.S. workers hurt by overseas competition. The TAA program is widely supported by Democrats, and some Republicans were known to be pressing for a White House commitment to move ahead with the Colombia and Panama free trade agreements (FTAs) before allowing a vote on TAA.

So the Andean Trade Preference Act, which everyone supports, will be held hostage for an FTA.  But it gets even more interesting, as voting for trade preferences have also recently been held up because of sleeping bags in Alabama.  You couldn't make that up if you tried.


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