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Ways and Means approves US-Peru trade pact

The House Ways and Means Committee yesterday cleared the way for a full House vote next week on the U.S.-Peru Free Trade Agreement, H.R. 3688. The committee vote was unanimous in support of the pact — 39-0.

Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel (D-NY) touted the agreement's inclusion of enforceable labor and environmental standards:

Because of the bipartisan support we brought to the United States Trade Representative and Treasury earlier this year, this new policy includes a commitment in every trade agreement to fully appreciate the negative aspects of trade on the American economy, our workers, and our industry.

It is the first FTA to include the labor and environmental provisions as outlined in the so-called Bipartisan Trade Deal negotiated with Democratic leadership and the Bush Administration.

Including non-trade issues in trade agreements can distort the benefits that liberalized trade can open up. As CEI has noted on numerous occasions:

Such provisions show a lack of recognition that trade and resultant economic growth can be critical in improving both the environment and the lives of workers. Policy makers should be wary of using trade agreements as a big stick to pursue environmental and labor goals. The regulatory costs of imposing rich countries' standards on developing countries can act as non-tariff trade barriers that threaten the positive beneï¬ts of more open trade.

In his statement on the committee vote on the agreement, Rangel also said that other pending pacts -- with Panama, Colombia, and South Korea -- will not be voted on this year because of time constraints. Those agreements for various reasons are considered more controversial.