WASHINGTON, Sept 25 (Reuters) - The United States should consider ending longtime trade benefits for Ecuador and Bolivia, but quickly renew them for Colombia and Peru, five U.S. business groups said on Thursday.
“There are serious concerns within the U.S. business community about breaches of the basic rule of law that are occurring in Ecuador and Bolivia,” the groups said in a letter to congressional leaders.
“We urge Congress and the Administration to reconsider how the ATPDEA (Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act) should apply, if at all, to these countries given their actions,” the groups said.
The five groups were the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Business Roundtable, the Emergency Committee for American Trade and the National Foreign Trade Council.
The United States has provided duty-free access for most goods from the four Andean countries under a program dating back to 1991 to help fight the illegal drug trade.
With Congress soon expected to adjourn for the year, the fate of the program has become entangled in U.S. concerns about the shift of Bolivia and Ecuador toward more leftist economic policies and the Bush administration’s last-ditch efforts to win approval of a free trade pact with Colombia.
In testimony prepared for the U.S. International Trade Commission in July, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce complained that “more than half a dozen of the largest business enterprises in Bolivia have been expropriated” over the past three years.
“Most of these firms are in the oil and gas sector, but the largest telecommunications company in the country was also expropriated. While U.S. companies and citizens were not involved in all of these cases, they were in some,” the business group said.
The Chamber of Commerce also cited Ecuador’s decision in 2004 to terminate a 19-year-old contract with Occidental Petroleum Corp (OXY.N) and expropriate the firm’s assets.
“Now being considered under international arbitration, this was one of the largest expropriations in the world in a generation” and part of pattern in which Ecuador’s judicial system has failed to provide adequate protection, the business group said. (Editing by Peter Cooney)