Senate Extends Trade Benefits to Andean Nations
Bush Supports

February 28, 2008 -

By Mark Drajem

Feb. 28 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Senate voted to extend expiring trade preferences that allow Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia to send most products to the U.S. duty-free.

The extension, through the end of 2008, was approved without objection. The measure, which was already approved by the House, now goes to President George W. Bush for his signature. The Bush administration says it supports the measure.

``A strong relationship with Latin America is in the best interest of Americans and our economy, as well as the economies and cultures of these key Latin American nations,'' said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus.

Congressional action this week relieves pressure on lawmakers to consider a separate free-trade agreement with Colombia, which Democratic House leaders oppose. Congress late last year approved a free-trade deal with Peru. Trade agreements are also pending with Panama and South Korea.

Baucus renewed his pledge today to pursue legislation to extend benefits to American workers fired because their factory moved overseas or because of import competition.

The Andean preferences were scheduled to expire tomorrow, after Congress passed short-term extensions in each of the last two years.

Iowa Senator Charles Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, had objected that Ecuador and Bolivia don't deserve to keep their preferences because they haven't agreed to negotiate a free-trade deal or resolve disputes with U.S. investors.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mark Drajem in Washington at