BUSH URGES ANDEAN EXTENSION
Byline: Kristi Ellis
WASHINGTON — President Bush and Colombian President Andres Pastrana urged Congress to quickly renew and expand the Andean Trade Preference Act after a meeting at the White House on Thursday.
Pastrana was in Washington for a three-day visit to seek approval to use U.S. anti-drug aid in his country’s war against leftist rebels and make a push for ATPA. The U.S. has given Colombia $1.7 billion the past two years as part of the campaign known as Plan Colombia, which includes a plan to persuade coca plant growers to switch to legitimate crops.
The two leaders emphasized the need for an expanded ATPA, which would also encompass Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru.
“We talked about the need to get the ATPA passed and out of the U.S. Senate, reconcile differences with the House and to my desk as quickly as possible,” Bush said at a White House news conference. “The president [Pastrana] knows first hand how important trade is, not only for commercial reasons, but also as a way to help fight against narco-trafficking and provide opportunities for people in his country.”
Pastrana said the ATPA is “fundamental” for Colombia’s commerce. “As we said, we don’t want aid, we want commerce,” Pastrana said. “With the help of the U.S. government, we will have ATPA before the end of May and that is going to be fundamental in our fight on drugs.”
The ATPA, which allows products from various Andean nations to be imported duty-free to the U.S., expired last December, although it was temporarily renewed for 90 days in mid-February.
One bill that would extend trade breaks to apparel with the use of regional fabrics has cleared the House, and another version, allowing less regional content and requiring U.S. yarn, is pending a vote in the Senate.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D., S.D.) said this week he hopes to bring the Andean trade bill for a vote on May 15. The legislation will be attached to a bill renewing the President’s Trade Promotion Authority, a cornerstone of the administration’s global trade-expanding agenda.