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05 March 2003

House Passes Bill Extending Normal Trade Relations to Serbia

(Other provisions would affect Andean, African imports) (430)
By Bruce Odessey
Washington File Staff Writer
Washington -- The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill that
would extend normal trade relations, otherwise known as
most-favored-nation status, to Serbia and Montenegro and make hundreds
of non-controversial small changes to U.S. trade law.
The bill passed March 5 consists mostly of more than 300 provisions
for tariff suspensions on imports of goods not produced domestically
and traded in small volume. Both the House and Senate need to pass a
final version of the bill before the president can sign it into law.
The Senate Finance Committee approved a very similar bill February 27,
sending it to the full Senate for consideration.
The House passed a similar bill in 2002, but the Senate never
considered its own version before that session of Congress adjourned.
The bill just passed by the House would restore normal trade relations
with Serbia and Montenegro, which were withdrawn in 1992.
"By allowing the president to lower tariffs on goods produced in
Serbia and Montenegro," U.S. Representative Phil Crane said, "we are
not only helping spur economic development in that country, but we are
providing a way to reinforce their progress towards peace and
stability." Crane is the Republican chairman of the House Ways and
Means trade subcommittee.
Another provision would extend Generalized System of Preferences (GSP)
tariff benefits to certain hand-knotted and hand-woven carpets, a
provision requested by the Bush administration especially aimed at
Pakistan. Such benefits could also accrue to Turkey, Nepal, Egypt and
Morocco.
Not in the bill was a provision that had passed in the 2002 House
version aimed at giving benefits to Turkey. It would have created
"qualifying industrial zones" in Turkey where certain goods produced
jointly by Turkish and Israeli manufacturers could enter the U.S.
market duty free. The Senate Finance bill also omits the Turkey
provision.
The bill would also make these changes: 
-- correct a mistake in the 2002 Trade Act that inadvertently raised
duties for certain goods from Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru
eligible for preferential tariffs under the Andean Trade Preference
Act (ATPA).
-- modify the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) to extend
tariff benefits to allow use of U.S.-formed fabrics or U.S.-formed
components, whether cut to shape or knit to shape, using U.S.-formed
yarns, in garments that are otherwise produced from fabrics formed in
the region.
-- require certification that wine imports meet U.S. wine-making
standards.
(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:
http://usinfo.state.gov)



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