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US Plans Free Trade Agreements With Three Additional Countries

Washinigton Outlook

James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent

US Plans Free Trade Agreements With Three Additional CountriesUS Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick has announced plans to negotiate yet another free trade agreement this one with Colombia, Peru and Panama. This latest announcement is part of a major push by the United States to negotiate free trade agreements, particularly in the Western Hemisphere, in view of the breakdown of World Trade Organization trade liberalization talks. This year, free trade agreements have been reached with Chile and Singapore, and negotiations are underway on a Central America Free Trade Area with Nicaragua, Guatemala, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Honduras. In addition, the US is pursuing a Free Trade Area of the Americas, incorporating South American countries; and one with Australia.Todays announcement was hailed by the American Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel (ITAA) as three more steps in the right direction toward a single Free Trade Area of the Americas. ITAA Executive Director Laura Jones noted that Colombia currently buys considerable raw cotton, yarn and fabrics from the United States, and speculated that the three countries are good candidates to buy more US inputs. She said both Colombia and Peru have accomplished textile and apparel industries and are well located to serve the US market.A spokesman for the American Textile Manufacturers Institute echoed the textile industrys standing position that free trade agreements must include a yarn-forward rule of origin, no tariff preference levels that permit non-participating countries to benefit from the special duty and tariff free treatments, and there must be strict Customs enforcement of the pacts.By James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent November 2003