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Senate Supports Textile Industry Trade Agenda

Textile state senators have added key elements of the domestic industrys trade agenda to legislation granting President Bush expanded trade negotiating authority. The amendments to the Trade Promotion Authority Act (TPA) would require other nations to open their markets to textile and apparel exports and also to protect United States anti-dumping laws, which the textile industry frequently has used to combat unfair trade practices.An amendment sponsored by Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) would write into law the negotiating objectives of the domestic industry in connection with the current World Trade Organization (WTO) trade liberalization talks and any other bi-lateral trade agreements. The Edwards amendment states the "Principal negotiating objectives of the United States, with respect to trade in textile and apparel articles, is to obtain competitive opportunity for United States exports of textiles and apparel in foreign markets." To accomplish this, the amendment would require other nations to reduce their tariff levels to the same or lower levels as the U.S. by a certain date and eliminate non-tariff barriers to trade in textiles and apparel. The amendment, co-sponsored by Senators Max Cleland (D-Ga.), Zell Miller (D-Ga.), George Allen (R-Va.), Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and Jesse Helms (R-N.C), was approved by a substantial margin of 66 to 33. Van May, president, American Textile Manufacturers Institute (ATMI), praised the senate action. " The senate recognizes that fairness must be a key objective in textile trade negotiations, and by adopting the Edwards Amendment, the senate has served notice that the U.S. textile industry is not to be given away in future trade talks," he said. In a related development, the senate adopted another amendment that would exempt U.S. anti-dumping, countervailing duty and other trade remedy laws from the so called "fast track" procedure whereby trade agreements cannot be amended by Congress. The amended version of the TPA bill provides that if any trade agreement negotiated under fast track procedures includes changes to U.S. trade laws, the proposed changes would be subject to regular congressional procedures, including full debate and amendment. That amendment was a major setback for the Bush administration and importers who believe it undercuts their ability to negotiate trade agreements.The senate is expected to pass the final version of the bill by its Memorial Day recess starting May 24, and the bill would then have to be reconciled with an already approved House version of Trade Promotion Authority.