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Free Trade With Chile And Singapore Approved

James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent

Free Trade With Chile and Singapore ApprovedCongress has approved free trade pacts with Chile and Singapore that, for the first time, extend preferential trade agreements to Asia and South American nations. The agreements, which take effect January 1, 2004, will eliminate tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade between the US and those nations. US Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick said the strong congressional support for the agreements is important recognition by the Congress of the positive role that trade plays in growing Americas economy. He said the free trade agreements are an important part of the administrations efforts to expand trade globally, regionally and bilaterally.While Zoellick praised the agreements and emphasized the need for additional free trade agreements, not everyone is all that excited about them. Organized labor, including the textile union UNITE, have attacked the agreements saying they will result in US job losses, and they fail to protect labor rights, including freedom of association, freedom to bargain collectively, freedom from child labor and other provisions which unions feel are important.US textile manufacturers see some opportunities for expanded trade, as both agreements include a yarn-forward rule of origin that requires that products receiving preferential treatment to be made of yarn and fabric produced in the participating countries. They were disappointed, however, that the agreements contain Tariff Preference Levels (TPLs) that extend preferential treatment to specific levels of products made of yarn and fabric manufactures in other countries. US importers of textiles and apparel were opposed to the yarn-forward rule of origin, since they believe it will restrict trade, but they say the TPLs will help somewhat. Under the Singapore agreement, 25 square meters of fabric and yarn made in other countries can receive preferential treatment, but that level of trade will be phased out over five years. The Chilean agreement permits TPLs of 1 million square meters of fabric and 2 million square meters of cotton and man-made fiber apparel in the first year, and those levels, likewise, will be phased out over five years.By James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent August 2003