The US House of Representatives on Tuesday, July 31, approved a landmark US-Jordan free trade deal, which is expected to serve as a model for future free trade pacts. The agreement, negotiated last year under former president Bill Clinton, was overwhelmingly approved by a voice vote in the 435-seat chamber.
A similar bill must now be approved by the Senate, in spite of a prominent Republican senator's objections to the pact's labor and environmental provisions.
The agreement would eliminate all tariffs on two-way trade in goods and services over a 10-year period, an arrangement the United States currently has with only three other countries: Canada, Mexico and Israel.
The pact is seen as a model for future US free trade pacts, but that worries some Republican senators, as it is the first such deal to carry specific labor and environmental guarantees — measures long sought by trade unions.
Heated debate over Senator Phil Gramm's objections had temporarily stalled plans for a vote in the Senate Finance committee, delaying its vote on the Senate floor for ratification. Gramm claimed the US-Jordan deal would allow an international dispute panel to adjudicate whether future US environmental and labor standards deteriorate — and then allow Jordan to impose punitive sanctions.
Such a panel could preclude Congress from changing US law — for instance, to authorize the opening of nature reserves for oil exploration — and so dilute US sovereignty, he argued. Nevertheless, the bill successfully passed the Senate's Finance committee last week. ― (AFP, Washington)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )