The White House today held a signing ceremony for President Bush to sign H.R 7222, legislation recently passed by Congress that will extend the Andean Trade Preferences Act (ATPA) and Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program until December 31, 2009. Both programs would have expired on December 31, 2008 if they had not been renewed.
The President took the opportunity to press for the approval of the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement that was signed in November 2006, but is still waiting for Congressional approval.
Today's mark-up of H.R. 5264, the Trade Preference Extension Act of 2008, by the House Ways and Committee took an interesting last-minute twist. Rather than extending the Andean Trade Preference Act (ATPA), Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) and Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) programs until September 30, 2010 as originally proposed, Chairman Rangel (D-NY) agreed to amend the bill by extending only the Andean Trade Preference Act until the end of this year. ATPA expires on February 28th.
The Ways and Means Committee subsequently agreed to approve the amended language of H.R. 5254 by a voice vote. The bill is expected to be considered by the full House during the week of February 25th.
House Republicans balked at the proposed two-year extension of ATPA since they want the House to vote on the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement as soon as possible.
As a result of this compromise, the extension of the CBI and GSP programs will have to wait until new legislation is introduced or is included in some other legislative vehicle later this year.
The text of the amended version of H.R. 5264 can be found here.