WASHINGTON – Business groups on Friday urged Congress not to adjourn before addressing key trade issues, including normalizing trade relations with Vietnam and renewing several expiring acts that make it easier for developing countries to sell goods in the United States.
Some 180 companies and business groups, in a letter to House and Senate leaders, said Congress must act in the few remaining days of this session "to avoid increasing manufacturing and consumer costs and significant trade disruption."
The letter, organized by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, named six main goals, including granting permanent normal trade relations to Vietnam and renewing the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program that provides duty-free entry for thousands of products from 144 countries and territories.
The GSP program expires at the end of this year, as does another program on the business list that encourages trade with Andean nations as a means of reducing reliance on narcotics production.
The business groups also cited the need to continue a program encouraging the sub-Saharan African apparel industry, the need to help Haiti's apparel industry and the need to enact a program that allows U.S. manufacturers to import products not made in this country with suspended or reduced duties.
Congress reconvenes after its Thanksgiving break next week with the goal of tying up loose ends and adjourning the 109th session by the end of the week.
It's expected to accomplish little beyond postponing action on delayed spending bills until the new Democratic-controlled Congress convenes in January.
But staff members in the office of outgoing Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said Friday that they were working on a package of necessary tax, trade and health policy extensions. One possibility is that the GSP program extension could be combined with a bill to renew expired tax breaks.
Frist's office said the Senate would also consider action on the Vietnam measure if the House acts first. The House last month rejected the Vietnam trade deal under a special procedure that required a two-thirds majority to pass it, but the measure has a good chance of passing if brought up under rules requiring only a simple majority.