for-phone-onlyfor-tablet-portrait-upfor-tablet-landscape-upfor-desktop-upfor-wide-desktop-up
Company News

UPDATE 2-House approves renewal of Andean trade benefits

* Andean countries to face June eligibility review

* Clothing importers urge Senate to approve renewal

(Adds more detail throughout)

WASHINGTON, Dec 14 (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives on Monday approved a one-year extension of soon-to-expire trade benefits for Ecuador, Colombia, Peru and a long list of other developing countries.

The House approved the renewal of the Andean trade preferences program and the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program on a voice vote.

U.S. duties on thousands of goods from the three nations would increase if the programs, set to expire Dec. 31, are not extended. The United States imported $13.1 billion worth of goods from Colombia, $9.0 billion from Ecuador and $5.8 billion from Peru in 2008.

The Andean program has been around since 1991 to help create jobs in the region and wean countries off the illegal drug trade.

It included Bolivia until last year, when former President George W. Bush took away that country’s benefits for failing to cooperate in the U.S. war on drugs.

The extension requires the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office to report by June 30 on whether the three remaining Andean countries are complying with program criteria.

That language is aimed primarily at Ecuador, which is accused by some in the United States of having a corrupt government and biased judiciary and of failing to honor contracts.

U.S. oil company, Chevron Corp CVX.N, has accused Ecuador of breaching a bilateral investment treaty with the United States by not forcing an Ecuadorean court to dismiss a $27 billion environmental lawsuit against the company.

The company argues the treaty entitles it to international arbitration, rather than having to go through local courts.

House Republican Leader John Boehner said Ecuador got off too lightly in the House bill and should have been held “accountable for its failure to respect international law.”

Boehner also complained the Democratic-run Congress has not approved free trade agreements with Colombia and Panama that would eliminate duties on U.S. exports to those countries.

U.S. clothing and shoe importers who depend on both preference programs applauded the House action and urged the Senate to approve the trade extensions, paving the way for President Barack Obama to sign them into law.

“Disruptions at this delicate juncture will only erode the recovery our industry has started to make since the recession began,” Kevin Burke, president of the American Apparel and Footwear Association, said in a statement.

The one-year renewal sets the stage for a comprehensive review of both programs next year.

GSP dates back to 1974 and gives 131 developing countries preferential access to the United States by waiving duties on nearly 3,500 goods.

Forty-four of the world’s poorest countries receive duty-free access for an additional 1,400 goods.

Reporting by Doug Palmer; Editing by Paul Simao

for-phone-onlyfor-tablet-portrait-upfor-tablet-landscape-upfor-desktop-upfor-wide-desktop-up