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US Congress presses trade legislation as Republican-led session nears end

US Congress presses trade legislation as Republican-led session nears end

Members of Congress continued to work late into the night to piece together legislation that includes several trade-related measures, such as extending normal trade status to Vietnam.
As Republicans prepared to hand over control of Congress to the Democrats, Republican leaders in the House of Representatives delayed a Thursday vote on the legislation, which contains many other measures, but did not immediately say why. The House, for reasons not altogether clear, went into a recess that lasted more than five hours.
Action on the legislation was one of the chief obstacles to concluding this year's turbulent congressional session.
The Vietnam bill would end the Cold War requirement that trade with the communist state be reviewed every year. While supported by the Bush administration, the proposal has run into opposition from critics of Vietnam's human rights record and those worried about the impact on American jobs.
Senator Max Baucus, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, said the bill "makes certain that more U.S.-made goods will get into Vietnam's markets."
Some industry groups are worried Vietnam's heavy subsidies and other trade policies have severely damaged the U.S. textile industry, costing companies billions of dollars and destroying American jobs.
The trade package also would extend or expand trade breaks for Haiti, sub-Saharan Africa and Andean nations, drawing opposition from supporters of the beleaguered U.S. textile industry.
In the Senate, Republican leaders were experiencing lingering unhappiness with the bill from several senators, especially over extending trade benefits for textile exports from Haiti.
Republican President George W. Bush is seeking congressional approval for trade pacts with Colombia and Peru, and U.S. trade officials are negotiating agreements with South Korea, Malaysia and others. These efforts are crucial, Bush argues, if U.S. companies are to compete with their foreign counterparts.
Democrats, who will come to power when a new Congress begins Jan. 4, contend the deals often favor U.S. competitors and accuse the Bush administration of doing too little to protect Americans from unfair foreign trade practices.


Updated : 2021-10-22 12:45 GMT+08:00