By  on May 23, 1994

WASHINGTON -- Vice President Albert Gore Jr. on Tuesday is slated to announce the Clinton administration will seek free trade benefits for Caribbean apparel manufacturers similar to those held by Mexico, sources said over the weekend.

This parity with the North American Free Trade Agreement, long sought by U.S. apparel makers who use the Caribbean extensively for 807 production, will be part of a bill the White House plans to send to Congress Thursday to implement the GATT Uruguay Round treaty, the sources said.

They further noted this bill will contain a novel approach to get around a congressional mandate that money-losing laws be offset: it will propose a one-year plan to make up tariffs lost due to the GATT and parity -- estimated at upwards of $13 billion or $14 billion in the first five years of GATT alone.

Funding mechanisms for future years would be submitted later.

The administration on Friday, after six months of debate, decided to support giving this parity to Caribbean Basin apparel manufacturers, sources said. They said Gore will announce this decision Tuesday in Honduras when he meets with Central American officials. Gore's office would not comment on any impending announcements, saying only "he will be in Honduras Tuesday to help plan for the Summit of the Americas to be held in Miami Dec. 9 and 10."

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Trade Representative declined to comment.

Meanwhile, the bill's prospects took a hit when Rep. John Spratt (D, S.C.), chairman of the House textile caucus, said he "strongly opposes parity" for the CBI until 1996 or 1997.

In an interview Saturday, he said concerns should be cleared up about enforcement of NAFTA's textile safeguards against transshiping and use of fabrics and yarns that don't meet rules of origin in Mexico "before we extend this benefit to the 22 or so CBI countries, each with their own customs system and special problems of policing trade rules."

Under NAFTA, Mexican apparel firms whose goods are made from North American yarn and fabric, can export clothing to the U.S. duty free and with generous quotas. Quotas were created for the duty-free export of various apparel that don't meet the origin rule, but this shouldn't pose a problem for CBI firms since almost all of their apparel is made from U.S. fabrics to take advantage of the so-called 807 programs.

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