The US House of Representatives passed a 10-month extension of the Andean Trade Preference Act (ATPA by a voice vote. The US Senate must now approve the companion bill before the ATPA expires in less than 55 hours, on February 29, to avoid any lapse in trade benefits.

‘It is good that the House has acted just in time, but the Senate still needs to follow-suit and pass this extension - the clock is running out,’ said Kevin M. Burke, president and CEO, AAFA. ‘The current uncertainty created by the imminent threat of expiration of the ATPA program contributes to the overall unease of the national economy.’

A win-win trade preference agreement, the ATPA stabilizes manufacturing and wholesale employment in all countries involved, while creating import opportunities that deliver a wider variety of goods at more affordable prices for all consumers. About $250 million worth of US cotton and textiles were exported to the four Andean countries of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru last year. The finished products - made with these US yarns, fabrics, fibers, cotton and other textile inputs - are then brought back to the US duty-free under the ATPA.

The US cotton, textile and apparel industries are rallying for prompt renewal of the ATPA, as well as for full implementation of the recently approved US/ Peru Trade Promotion Agreement (TPA) and speedy approval pending US/ Colombia TPA. These two TPAs are urgently needed to transform the current one-way, temporary program into a permanent, comprehensive and reciprocal partnership.

‘To prevent this continual race against the clock as each extension nears expiration,’ continued Burke, ‘AAFA urges Congress to complete the implementation of the Peru TPA and passage of the Colombia TPA ’ agreements that have been endorsed by the entire textile and apparel supply chain ’ to remove the economic uncertainty that currently plagues our trade relationships with these important partners.’