Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) called on the Obama Administration to support the Asia-South Pacific Trade Preferences Act, a bill that would provide duty-free and quota-free benefits to 13 of the world’s least developed countries including Afghanistan, East Timor, Bangladesh and Nepal.
“I urge the administration to announce at the leadership meetings of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) initiative in Hawaii next month that it will begin to work with Congress to expand trade benefits for Least Developed Countries,” Senator Feinstein wrote in the letter. “We should help these countries help themselves by opening the U.S. market to their exports as we have done for other developing countries in the past.”
Full text of the letter follows:
October 31, 2011
The Honorable Ron Kirk
United States Trade Representative
600 17th Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20508
Dear Mr. Ambassador:
I am writing to urge you to support S. 1443, the Asia-South Pacific Trade Preferences Act.
This legislation would provide duty-free and quota-free benefits, similar to those afforded under the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, to 13 Least Developed Countries, including Afghanistan, East Timor, Maldives, Cambodia, Bangladesh, and Nepal, that currently do not have a special trade preference program with the United States. It will help these countries sustain vital export industries while creating employment opportunities and promoting democracy.
These countries are among the poorest in the world with the bulk of their citizens living on less than $1 a day. Despite this widespread poverty, their exports are subject to some of the highest U.S. tariffs, averaging around 16 percent. Unfortunately, the United States is the only developed nation that has not provided these enhanced trade preferences to these Asia-Pacific countries. The Asia-South Pacific Trade Preferences Act would correct this inequity.
I have long supported a strong and effective foreign aid budget for the United States as an essential tool in helping lift these countries out of poverty and put them on the path to economic prosperity and political stability. Yet, especially in these difficult fiscal times, humanitarian and development assistance should not be the sum total of our efforts.
Indeed, the key for sustained growth, jobs, and rising standards of living will be the ability of each of these countries to create vital export industries to compete in a free and open global marketplace. We should help these countries help themselves by opening the U.S. market to their exports as we have done for other developing countries in the past. By doing so, we will demonstrate the best of American values: reaching out to a neighbor in need and helping him to stand on his own two feet.
As a part of the World Trade Organization Doha Round of global trade talks, the United States has signaled a willingness to address the goals of this legislation by proposing duty-free/quota free treatment on 97 percent of products exported by Least Developed Countries. Yet little progress has been made in these talks and I understand there is a possibility that they may be suspended at the December WTO Ministerial Conference which you will be attending.
As a result, I urge the administration to announce at the leadership meetings of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) initiative in Hawaii next month that it will begin to work with Congress to expand trade benefits for Least Developed Countries. This Asia-South Pacific Trade Preferences Act, which will help some of the region’s poorest countries, can serve as a key first step of that initiative.
I appreciate your attention to this request and I look forward to hearing from you.
United States Senator