March 09,2010

Baucus Urges Reform, Extension of Key Trade Preference Programs

Finance Chairman Committed to Improving Preference Programs to Alleviate Poverty through Sustainable Economic Growth

Washington, DCSenate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) convened a hearing today to explore options for reforming U.S. trade preference programs.  Baucus urged meaningful reform 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.

“Successful reform means certainty.  U.S. companies relying on these imports, investors and beneficiary countries need to be sure U.S. 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,” Baucus said.  “Successful reform also means meaningful and enforceable eligibility criteria.  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.  I will continue to work with Senator Grassley and my colleagues on the Ways and Means Committee to pass legislation to provide additional trade benefits to Haiti.”

Baucus reiterated his support for reforming U.S. trade preference programs and improving the programs to help alleviate poverty by facilitating sustainable economic growth in least developed countries that are using economic development to create social and political stability.  He stated that operational provisions, such as rules of origin, must be streamlined through reform in order to eliminate the current patchwork of rules that are difficult to implement and enforce.  And Baucus urged the United States to assist in Haiti’s earthquake recovery efforts by creating additional incentives for investment in Haiti’s apparel sector.

Originally established in 1974, trade preference programs give developing countries duty?free access to the U.S. 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 U.S. market for certain textile and apparel products from eight Caribbean Basin countries including Haiti.

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