On February 14, the House Ways and Means Committee approved H.R. 5264, which would extend preferential trade treatment under the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act (ATPDEA) for ten months, until December 31, 2008. ATPDEA provides for duty-free entry into the United States of qualifying apparel from Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. Qualifying articles include those assembled in ATPDEA beneficiary countries from U.S. fabric, as well as certain articles using U.S. or regional yarns, or fabrics or yarns that are commercially unavailable in the United States.

Benefits under the current ATPDEA legislation expire February 29. In late 2007, Congress voted to approve the free trade agreement (FTA) between the United States and Peru. This agreement has not been implemented, however, and it is possible that implementation may not occur until 2009. Similarly, the United States and Colombia negotiated an FTA, but Congress has not voted on implementing legislation for that agreement and may not do so this year. Thus, even for Peru and Colombia, ATPDEA extension is necessary to avoid gaps in benefits. Moreover, Bolivia and Ecuador did not conclude FTA negotiations with the United States and therefore have no avenue to these benefits except ATPDEA.

An earlier version of the bill would have extended ATPDEA until 2010, but the shorter extension was a compromise with Republicans in Congress, who preferred a shorter extension as a means to pressure Democrats to vote to implement the FTA with Colombia. The earlier bill also included extensions for benefits under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) (which expire December 31) and the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act (CBERA) (which expire September 30), as well as amendments to the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and the GSP’s Competitive Need Limitations. The current bill omits these provisions and addresses only ATPDEA; Congress must now separately consider these changes to other preferential trade programs.

Following committee approval, the House of Representatives is expected to vote on H.R. 5264. The Senate must also pass an identical bill, which has not yet been introduced.