BILL TO BOOST CBI PERKS LURCHING THROUGH SENATE

Byline: Joyce Barrett

WASHINGTON--A plan to broaden trade benefits to the Caribbean continues to stumble through Congress, and now backers are seeking to include it in a trade bill expected before Congress by the end of the year.
Devised as a catchall for trade matters that have been relegated to secondary status behind Medicare and tax reform, the bill could include the Caribbean measure, a bill to create a five-judge panel to review World Trade Organization decisions and an international shipping agreement that would phase out subsidies.
Sen. William Roth Jr. (R., Del.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said Thursday that he planned to begin drafting a trade measure "at the earliest possible time," after dissuading Sen. Bob Graham (D., Fla.) from attempting to attach a Caribbean provision to a $245 billion tax cut devised by Senate Republicans. The provision would give the Caribbean Basin Initiative countries benefits equal to those held by Mexico under the North American Free Trade Agreement.
In consenting not to bring up the CBI bill, Graham noted the importance of acting quickly on the trade bill because "we are beginning to see a shift of investment from Caribbean countries to Mexico, and we should avoid steps that will result in slippage of economic gains made in the Caribbean basin."
On the House side, where all trade legislation must originate, Rep. Phil Crane (R., Ill.), chairman of the House Trade Subcommittee, said he planned to move the Caribbean parity plan along with an international shipping agreement later this year if time is left in the legislative session.
A plan to extend fast-track negotiating authority for the administration to pursue trade negotiations with Chile will have to move separately, if at all, Crane said. Negotiations between congressional Republicans and the Clinton administration on fast-track language broke down last week, and Crane is blaming Democrats for killing chances of a fast-track deal this year.
The administration insisted it be given authority to negotiate labor and environmental protections in Chile's accession to NAFTA, but Republicans held firm in their objections. A Republican version of fast-track authority without environmental and trade provisions had been included in a massive budget reconciliation bill, but Republican leaders withdrew it for fear it would cause problems for GOP freshmen.
"Leadership didn't want the freshmen on the line for this without any Democrats," a House aide said. "They are anticipating that Perot and Buchanan would criticize this vote. If Republicans will have to take the heat for this, then the Democrats will too."
The WTO bill is backed by Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole (R., Kan.), who has been attempting to bring it up in the Senate for several weeks but has been blocked by Graham, who said he didn't want any trade matters considered unless CBI parity gets a vote as well.
Meanwhile, the Senate passed, in a 74 to 24 vote, a plan to toughen the embargo against Cuba but only after removing the toughest and most contentious provision. The provision would have allowed U.S. citizens whose Cuban property has been confiscated to sue foreign companies that buy, lease or use these properties.--Fairchild News Service

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