Rangel Sees Little Opposition To Vietnam, Calls For Preference Extensions
Inside Trade – November 8, 2006
Congress should approve legislation granting Vietnam permanent normal trade relations and extensions of several preference programs before adjourning for the year, according to Ways and Means Ranking Member Charles Rangel (D-NY), who is expected to chair the committee in the next Congress after yesterday?s Democratic victories in the mid-term elections.
In a call to reporters today (Nov. 8), Rangel said he viewed the Vietnam legislation as ?non-controversial? and added that he did not expect any opposition to it if it came up in a vote during the lame-duck session of Congress expected to take place next week. The Bush Administration has been pushing for a vote on the Vietnam bill before President Bush visits that country at the end of next week.
However, Rangel said he would continue to oppose a free trade agreement with Peru unless it is changed to require that Peru?s labor laws meet the standards of the International Labor Organization. The FTA negotiated by the administration requires Peru to enforce its own trade laws, which Democrats argue do not meet ILO standards. This provision is also not subject to dispute settlement.
Rangel said Democrats ?want very badly? to support the Peru FTA, but charged that House Republican leaders had decided not to consider changing the labor provisions in order to argue during the campaign season that Democrats oppose free trade. Rangel suggested that the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative might be open to making the change, and said he was hopeful House Republicans might lower their demands with the departure of former Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX), who has resigned from the House, and the imminent departure of current Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas (R-CA), who is retiring.
?If indeed this lame-duck session, we can bring some compromises — I know we won?t have a problem with the U.S. Trade Representative,? Rangel said in a Nov. 8 press call. ?But, you know, DeLay being gone and Thomas leaving, maybe there?ll be some compassion, but as is, we will not be supporting Peru.?
A spokesman for House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) said GOP leaders have made no decisions yet on either Vietnam or Peru.
One congressional source predicted Peru would not be considered until 2007 given the Nov. 7 election results, which saw Democrats win control of the House and possibly a majority in the Senate. He noted that Republicans would not be able to rely on support from any Democrats to approve the Peru FTA, and it is unclear whether they could craft majorities on their own. In addition, if the Peru FTA were submitted in the current Congress, it is unclear whether it could be resubmitted in the next Congress and still be subject to fast-track rules, which prevents amendments from being offered to trade agreements.
Rangel said he had spoken to Boehner, who offered encouragement that legislation extending preferences to Andean and African countries and creating preferences for Haiti could be considered in a lame-duck session. He also said he hoped that the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) would be extended, saying a short-term extension of the program would be better than leaving it to be done until later.
GSP and preferences for Colombia, Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador under the Andean Trade Preferences Act expire at the end of this year. Thomas has introduced a bill extending GSP for two years, although his legislation would make some changes to the program that would make it more difficult for certain products from Brazil and India to continue to receive duty-free access under the program.
The Thomas bill would also create new preferences for imports from Haiti, and extend preferences under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), but it does not extend the Andean preferences.
Separately, Rangel has introduced legislation granting a two-year extension of GSP, ATPA and a provision in AGOA that allows African countries to use fabric from third countries including China in garments that receive duty-free access to the U.S. This provision in AGOA expires in fall 2007.
Rangel said he thought it was ?very important? that the AGOA, Andean and Haiti preferences be completed in the lame-duck session.
Rangel said Rep. Jim McCrery (R-LA) had called him to congratulate him on the Democratic victories in the House, and he suggested McCrery would succeed Thomas as the top committee Republican on Ways and Means. Two other Republicans with more seniority on the committee than McCrery, Nancy Johnson (R-CT) and Trade Subcommittee Chairman Clay Shaw (R-FL), were defeated in re-election bids this week. McCrery was seen as a likely successor to Thomas when Thomas announced his retirement earlier this year.
Johnson and Shaw were two of five Ways and Means Republicans defeated. Reps. J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ), Melissa Hart (R-PA) and Chris Chocola (R-IN) also lost.
From Rep. Charles B. Rangel
Ranking Democrat, Committee on Ways and Means
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Matthew Beck, 202-225-1417
November 7, 2006
110th Congress Will Usher in New Era of Bipartisanship
Democrats and Republicans Must Come Together to Make Progress on Tough Issues
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Ways and Means Ranking Member Charles B. Rangel issued the following statement in anticipation of the 110th Congress:
“The first priority of the 110th Congress should be to rebuild the trust between the parties. In order to restore bipartisanship, Democrats and Republicans will have to come to the table and identify some ‘low-hanging fruit’, or policies that we can deal with together in the first months of 2007. The public has given Democrats an
opportunity to prove that we can lead for the next two years and to show that we can be bipartisan in our approach to governing.
“This new Congress is an opportunity to show Americans they made the right choice, and I’m looking forward to working with President Bush and Secretary Paulson to find common ground. I’m encouraged that we’ll be able to work together on tax policies like closing the tax gap and ending tax shelters for companies that move American jobs overseas.
“I’d like to start rebuilding the trust between parties by bringing Members together for informal retreats with key officials like US Trade Representative Schwab and Social Security Commissioner Barnhart, to get a full sense of the issues we’re dealing with. Once we lay the groundwork and involve Democrats and Republicans in the process, we’ll be in a stronger position to work together on big-ticket items like simplifying the tax code, enforcing trade laws and protecting Social Security’s guaranteed benefit for future generations.
“We’ll find ways to involve more members on issues like trade policy so we can show the American people that expanded trade doesn’t always have to mean the loss of good paying jobs here at home. We’ll work to address the health care crisis in the country today and look for new solutions to cover the more than 46 million uninsured. We’ll start off looking for ways to improve the existing Medicare prescription drug program, allowing the government to negotiate for lower drug prices and making the program easier for beneficiaries to understand.
“The American people are fed up with partisanship. It is in our best interest, and the best interest of this country, to move beyond political attacks and work toward solutions. In large part, middle class families feel ignored by the Administration’s tax policies, and Democrats will bring their voice to Congress. We’ll work to provide tax relief for middle income families to help them afford the cost of health care, education and protect them from the growing threat of the alternative minimum tax to provide economic security for all Americans.
“The President does not have to be a lame duck, in fact, he should welcome the opportunity to work with Democrats to formulate bipartisan solutions to these and other problems facing our country.”