Senate passes trade bill stalled by custody fight

AP News
Posted: Dec 22, 2009 10:48 PM

The Senate has unanimously approved a trade bill that benefits more than 130 countries exporting thousands of goods into the United States after the legislation briefly became entangled with a New Jersey man's legal battle to have his 9-year-old son returned from Brazil.

The trade measure was passed by the Senate late Tuesday without opposition after Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., lifted a "hold" on the bill. Lautenberg imposed the hold _ an action that by tradition is honored by senators _ as a protest to Brazil's failure to act on the child custody case.

A Lautenberg spokesman, Caley Gray, said the senator ended his opposition to the trade bill after word came from Brazil that the country's chief justice had ruled David Goldman's son, Sean, must be delivered to him by the boy's Brazilian relatives.

The bill, which earlier had passed the House and now goes to the president for his signature, extends the trade benefits for one year, allowing the countries to export a variety of products duty-free to the United States. Brazil is the fifth largest beneficiary from the duty-free provision, receiving an estimated $2.75 billion in benefits last year, according to Gray.

The bill contained trade measures that were scheduled to expire at the end of the year.

The first program, dating back to 1976 and the one targeted by Lautenberg, is known as the Generalized System of Preferences. It allows some 132 developing countries to send 3,400 types of products into the United States without paying duties.

A second program, also extended under the legislation, enacted in 1991 and known as the Andean Trade Preferences Act, provides duty-free treatment to Colombia, Ecuador and Peru as a means of helping those countries develop economic alternatives to drug production and trafficking.

The two programs enjoy wide support among U.S. textile, apparel and footwear groups.


The bill is H.R. 4284.


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