Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Friday, August 04, 2006

Vietnam Measure Facing Difficult Path

As reported by nationaljournal.com, the 18-0 vote this week in the Senate Finance Committee for normalizing trade relations with Vietnam signaled that achieving PNTR was likely. However, as an amendable trade bill, it now must face the uncertain process of moving through the Senate, despite having almost full support. Lobbyists and congressional aides say that the path to congressional approval for Vietnam permanent normal trade relations legislation in September will be a difficult one.

Business supporters will try to push the bill through the Senate in the first couple of weeks of the September session, followed by House action, which is where the difficulties lie. House leaders feel uneasy about any trade votes before the election.

Senate Finance ranking member Max Baucus, D-Mont., along with other leaders are working to prevent amendments that are not directly to the Vietnam measure. However, Senate leaders will have to deal with amendments from Republicans in two areas: textiles and apparel and concerns about religious freedom and human rights.

Senators Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. want to see currentquotas on Vietnamese apparel extended, or a strengthened ability for U.S. domestic textile producers to use antidumping laws against Vietnamese imports. An amendment allowing that would help keep those companies viable in the face of Asian imports that are assembled with fabric from China and elsewhere outside the United States.

However, sources said any amendments offered would not likely succeed in the Senate. Senators Gordon Smith, R-Ore., Sam Brownback, R-Kan., and Jim Bunning, R-Ky., are among senators who have said they want further assurances before voting on thetrade bill regarding the issue of religious freedom and human rights.

"I'm very concerned that once the pressure is off, Vietnam would forget about human rights and religious freedom," Brownback said.

"The business community is really focused on getting this agreement done but is growing very anxious about the conflicting signals the administration is sending to the Hill about how important it is to get this agreement done before the president goes to Vietnam," said one GOP trade lobbyist.


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