Byline: Joyce Barrett

WASHINGTON--House Trade Subcommittee chairman Phil Crane (R., Ill.), predicted Monday that the bill to broaden trade benefits to the Caribbean would be passed into law this year, but acknowledged that finding money to pay for the tariff reductions it would create could be a problem.
Extending the same trade benefits to the 24 Caribbean Basin nations as were granted Mexico under the North American Free Trade Agreement is expected to cost $1.2 billion. Under federal budgeting rules, Congress must make up that anticipated loss in tariff income, even though arguments are prevalent that freer trade enhances the Treasury through increased jobs and healthier industries.
"We'll be wrestling to find the money," Crane said in a speech to the International Trade Task Force of Women on Capitol Hill. Crane is the primary sponsor of the Caribbean parity bill. His subcommittee advanced it to the full Ways and Means Committee in action last week. No date has been set for its consideration before the full committee, he said.
Crane also outlined an aggressive schedule for the rest of this year's trade agenda. He currently is drafting a bill to grant the President fast-track negotiating authority for four years to pursue additional free trade agreements. This measure should come before his subcommittee by early June.
China's most-favored-nation trade status is to be considered in June, along with oversight hearings on NAFTA and the newly created World Trade Organization, which is governing world trading rules. Crane said there still is no schedule for consideration by the full committee.
Also, despite a request by Rep. Charles Rangel (R., N.Y.) to consider a bill that reviews the trade embargo on Cuba, Crane said he has no plans to consider the measure. Rangel has expressed interest in loosening the Cuban trade embargo.
On another point, Rangel, in a letter last week to Democrats on the Trade Subcommittee, said he wanted to review the measure, as well as consider ways to "manage U.S. trade relationships with countries that are major illegal drug suppliers to the U.S."
Other items expected to come before the panel in June include an extension of the Generalized System of Preferences, which expires July 31, and granting MFN to Bulgaria and Cambodia.--Fairchild News Service

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