WASHINGTON, Feb. 27 (UPI) -- Free trade proponents in the U.S. Congress are pushing for an extension of trade preferences on fabric, apparel and other manufactured goods from Africa.
A measure being promoted by Ways and Means ranking member Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., and Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., and would ensure trade preferences for manufactured goods from African Nations as provided under the African Growth and Opportunity Act would last until 2020.
A companion measure in the Senate by Foreign Relations committee chairman Richard Lugar, R-Ind., would extend preferences through 2015.
Quick action is being urged due to worries election year politics could hamper the effort, which includes a four year extension of an exemption for several of the poorest African nations from requirements that apparel must be assembled from African-made thread and fabric to receive duty-free import status.
Both the leading Democratic presidential candidates, Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts and John Edwards of North Carolina, have attacked free trade deals for enabling the free flow of U.S. jobs overseas, particularly in the trade and technology sectors.
World Trade Organization Director-General Supachai Panitchpakdi said Thursday the growing protectionist sentiment in the United States threatens global free trade.