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U.S. Congressional Update: December 2007

November 30, 2007

U.S.-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement Becomes Law

Ten days after the U.S.-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement (TPA) passed in the Senate, President Bush, at a December 14 White House ceremony, signed the deal into law. The President was joined by his Peruvian counterpart, President Alan García, during the widely attended gathering of lawmakers, ambassadors, cabinet and administration officials, and members of the business community. Passage of the Peru agreement has been a priority for the Council of the Americas and its members since then-U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick announced negotiations at the Council’s Washington Conference on the Americas in 2002. Through our Peru Action Group, the Council is pleased to have played a leading role in the advancing the cause of trade expansion with Peru and advocating the final passage of the agreement.

At the ceremony, President Bush emphasized that “opening markets has helped [to] expand democracy…and strengthen the rule of law…and lift millions out of poverty.” Appealing specifically to the Peruvian benefits, the President underscored how the FTA will allow Peruvians to “benefit from more choices and better prices.” Once implemented, the U.S.-Peru TPA will immediately eliminate duties on 80 percent of U.S. consumer and industrial goods sold in Peru and will eliminate all remaining duties within 10 years.

The signing ceremony marked the last step for the agreement after it had passed in the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support. Legislators approved the bill on December 4 by a 77 to 18 vote. The Senate action followed a strong vote in the House of Representatives in early November, where the U.S.-Peru TPA passed by a comfortable margin of 285 to 132 votes. The long-anticipated vote was possible after a bipartisan compromise on the inclusion of environmental and labor protections in the agreement.

In marking U.S.-Peru TPA passage, Senator Max Baucus of Montana, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, expressed his “hope that the landmark labor and environmental provisions will help to build confidence in America’s ability to strike trade agreements that benefit workers and the environment in both countries.”

Presidents Bush and García call for Fast Action on Colombia and Panama

With the U.S.-Peru agreement now set, President Bush issued a renewed call for Congress to pass the remaining agreements with Colombia and Panama. In his remarks, the President emphasized that people are “watching to see what this Congress will do when it comes to how we treat our friends.” In strong support of his Latin American neighbors, Peruvian President Alan García spoke in favor of the Colombia agreement at the signing of the U.S.-Peru TPA. “This [treaty] would be critical to reaffirm democracy, freedom, investment, and prosperity for the Colombian people. The same could be said about Panama.”
President Bush strongly supports passage of the Colombia and Panama trade agreements and is seeking congressional approval in 2008. However, congressional support largely remains unseen.