WASHINGTON (AP) — A proposed free trade agreement with Peru won unanimous committee approval in the House of Representatives on Wednesday and stands to become the first U.S. FTA with guarantees to set standards for labor and the environment.
If the House endorses the agreement and the Senate follows, it will go to President George W. Bush for his signature to become the 10th FTA in force. Among them are NAFTA — the United States, Canada and Mexico — and CAFTA-DR — the United States, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic.
Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, which approved the Peru agreement with a 39-to-0 vote, said it is a landmark among the free trade pacts with its labor and environmental guarantees.
''The inclusion of core standards for labor and important environmental protections, including an historic agreement on logging and greater access to life-saving medicines, represent the culmination of a decade-long effort to incorporate these principles into the text of US trade agreements,'' Rangel said in a statement.
The Bush administraation was pleased with the committee action.
''For years, nearly all of Peru's goods have entered the United States duty-free. With this vote, committee members are opening up Peru's market to U.S. exports and cementing the benefits of two-way trade for both our nations,'' said Susan Schwab, the U.S. Trade Representative. ''I look forward to an overwhelming bipartisan vote by the full House in favor of this agreement.''
The agreement lifts tariffs immediately for 80 percent of U.S. exports to Peru of consumer and industrial products, Schwab's office said, with remaining tariffs being phased out over 10 years.
Three-fourths New Market Access for U.S. Consumer and Industrial Products: Eighty percent of U.S. exports of consumer and industrial products to Peru will become duty-free immediately, with remaining tariffs phased out over 10 years. Likewise, more than two-thirds of current agricultural exports to Peru will become duty-free immediately, with all others being phased out in 17 years.