WASHINGTON — The Senate renewed two trade preference programs Tuesday night that were set to expire at the end of the year.
The unanimous voice vote paved the way for a one-year extension of both the Generalized System of Preferences, which provides duty free benefits to 131 designated countries covering about 4,800 products, and a program of duty free benefits for the Andean countries.
The House previously passed one-year extensions for the programs, which will take effect after being signed by President Obama.
“I applaud the U.S. Senate for taking action to keep these important programs from lapsing,” said Kevin Burke, president and chief executive officer of the American Apparel & Footwear Association.
Julia Hughes, senior vice president international trade for the U.S. Association of Importers of Textiles & Apparel, said, “This gives us 2010 as the year to seriously review all the trade preference programs and hopefully package an updated 21st-century preference program early.”
Apparel importers and retailers are pushing for changes to overhaul the trade preference programs. They have proposed a simpler, unified rule of origin and an expansion of duty free benefits to include Bangladesh and Cambodia. U.S. textile groups have opposed expansion of the programs and support the GSP and Andean preferences in their current form.
Tuesday’s vote provides “stability in the marketplace,” said Auggie Tantillo, executive director of the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition. “We like the programs in their current form. We have concerns with folks who are proposing significant changes.”