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Congress Sends Peru Free-trade Pact To President


Congress Sends Peru Free-Trade Pact to President

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has hailed the passage by Congress of a U.S.-Peru free-trade agreement. The U.S. Senate December 4 voted 77 to 18 in favor of the free-trade agreement with Peru, clearing the pact for final action by the president.

"Peruvian access to the U.S. market, which had to be renewed by Congress periodically, will become permanent. This permanent access will help build a more efficient and effective economic engine to create growth, jobs and economic opportunities both in Peru and in the United States," Rice said in a statement.

In November, the House of Representatives approved the agreement 285-132. After the Senate vote, President Bush said he would sign the bill and urged Congress to pass similar free-trade pacts with Colombia, Panama and South Korea.

Bush said the Senate's backing of the pact "signals our firm support for those who share our values of freedom and democracy and expanding opportunity for all."

The agreement is the first that meets conditions set in a May agreement between Congress and the White House to include enforceable labor and environmental standards in such pacts. It also offers greater protection of intellectual property rights and food safety.

The free-trade agreement grants duty-free treatment to 80 percent of U.S. consumer and industrial exports and more than two-thirds of U.S. farm exports to Peru, including beef, cotton, wheat and soybeans. U.S. trade with Peru is approximately $9 billion annually. Under the pact, Peruvians will see the price of U.S. products fall.

The agreement "will ensure a vibrant two-way trade relationship and enduring friendship in our hemisphere," U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab said in a statement.

"With the strong votes by both chambers of Congress," Schwab added, "we are sending a strong signal to the world that the United States is regaining its bipartisan footing on trade policy and is a reliable ally to countries that are building political and economic freedom."

Iowa Republican Senator Charles Grassley, in a Senate floor statement urging approval of the free-trade pact, said such agreements are especially important for Latin American nations because they "create more opportunities for increased economic growth and prosperity in neighboring economies, which helps to foster political stability. And that's particularly important in this part of the world, where meaningful alternatives are needed to combat the production and trade of illicit narcotics."

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, a Democrat from Montana, had urged passage of pact, saying it would "strengthen our ties with one of the fastest-growing economies in Latin America." But Baucus has said he will not push for action on the pending agreement with South Korea until that country agrees to accept U.S. beef, which it had barred, citing fears of mad cow disease.

Because of trade preferences already extended to Peru and three other Andean region nations, 98 percent of Peru's goods already enter the United States duty-free.

ENDS

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