STILL UNDECIDED: CBI PARITY PLAN, RULE OF ORIGIN

Byline: Joyce Barrett

WASHINGTON--It's still up in the air whether the implementing legislation for GATT will include extended trade benefits for the Caribbean and a change in the origin rule for apparel imports.
Congress sent to the White House Tuesday its recommendation on the GATT Uruguay Round bill and asked the administration to referee disputes on several items that remain undecided, including these two key issues.
Even though the Congressional recommendation is incomplete, Capitol Hill trade leaders were optimistic that the GATT accord for liberalized worldwide trade would be passed into law this year.
"These are minor items," said Rep. Sam Gibbons, (D., Fla.), acting chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. "This agreement has been worked on almost eight years, and more countries have signed onto this than any previous agreement. It's the most important financial and economic agreement ever."
Gibbons, though, was unsuccessful in persuading Senate Finance Committee chairman Daniel P. Moynihan (D., N.Y.) to accept the plan to give Caribbean Basin Initiative countries trade parity with Mexico under the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Gibbons deems CBI parity critical for Florida ports, and crucial to advancing economic development in the Caribbean, especially in light of U.S. military presence in Haiti. Moynihan has opposed it in defense of New York apparel workers and organized labor.
Advocates of the Caribbean parity plan were confident the administration will include it in its implementing bill, since it enjoys broad support in the Clinton administration and was included in the initial draft of the GATT implementing bill sent to Congress in the spring.
The Caribbean is already a key supplier of apparel under 807 programs, but CBI parity advocates argue that NAFTA still gives Mexico a decided competitive advantage.
Also left up to the White House was the proposed change in the rule of origin for apparel imports. It has been strongly backed by the textile industry and just as forcefully opposed by retailers. The House Ways and Means Committee included the rule change in its proposal, but the Senate Finance Committee had rejected it. The proposal would shift country of origin from where fabric is cut to where the garment is actually sewn.
Because the administration supports the rule change, retailers were not sanguine that it would not be added to the final draft of the implementing bill, expected to be formally submitted to Capitol Hill next week.
Sen. Bob Packwood (R., Ore.), however, threatened Tuesday that if it were included in the final GATT package, up to five Senate votes could be lost for GATT. But 11 Republican senators wrote Senate Minority Leader Robert Dole (R., Kan.) late Tuesday that they wanted to see the rule change included in GATT.
--Fairchild News Service

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