The Senate approved Wednesday a six-week extension of trade measures that provide job training for displaced workers and give duty-free access to exports from Andean countries.
The temporary extension provides duty-free access to imports from Colombia, Peru and Ecuador, but it doesn’t include trade preferences for about 130 other developing countries, which are set to expire at the end of the year.
The House passed a broader trade bill last week that would have pushed back the expiration of all three programs from the end of this year to the middle of 2012. It also would have eliminated duties on some products used by U.S. manufacturers in the production process.
However, that bill has been blocked in the Senate by Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.), who has been trying to strip out duty-free access to sleeping bags made in Bangladesh, which compete with a manufacturer in his state.
Thus, a handful of senators worked out a deal to extend the other two measures until Feb. 12, but not the Generalized System of Preferences program that includes the sleeping bags. Congress could still extend that program retroactively in the next session, though even a brief interruption could disrupt trade in some of the products involved.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D, Mont.) said he would continue to push for longer extensions, including the Generalized System of Preferences.
The House will have to take up the bill passed by the Senate before it can be sent to the president’s desk. (Tom Barkley / Dow Jones Newswires)