November 3, 1999
Senate Backs Lower Import Tax on Africa and Caribbean Goods
By ERIC SCHMITT
ASHINGTON -- A popular package of trade bills for African and
Caribbean nations escaped a procedural thicket in the Senate on
Tuesday and advanced toward final approval when the senators voted
to limit debate and consider amendments to the far-reaching
The senators voted 74-23 to end one of a series of filibusters
led by Sen. Ernest F. Hollings, D-S.C., who fears that African
exports will hurt his state's politically powerful textile
industry. Organized labor, worried over the impact on jobs in the
apparel industry, also opposes the bill.
A final vote on the measure is expected later this week.
The bills would reduce or eliminate duties on a wide range of
goods made in sub-Saharan Africa, Central America and the
Caribbean, mostly those assembled with fabric made in the United
States. President Clinton and a large majority in Congress support
In a sign of the measure's importance to the White House,
Clinton issued a statement from Oslo, Norway, where he is taking
part in a two-day summit meeting on the Middle East peace talks,
calling the vote Tuesday "an important milestone in our effort to
build a new economic relationship with sub-Saharan Africa and
deepen ties with our Caribbean and Central American neighbors."
Clinton is also keen to take a deal with him to Seattle on Nov.
30, when he is to open a meeting of the world's top trade
Tuesday's action breathes life into a measure that seemed in
jeopardy just last Friday, when all 40 Democrats joined together to
oppose a Republican effort to cut off debate. That Democratic vote
was in protest of a parliamentary move by Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss.,
the majority leader, to bar Democrats from offering amendments to
But Lott and the Democratic leader, Sen. Tom Daschle of South
Dakota, both strong supporters of the bill, agreed to allow
trade-related amendments and to consider unrelated amendments, like
raising the minimum wage, on a separate bill.
Lott had said last week that if Tuesday's vote failed to end the
filibuster -- a process called cloture, which needs 60 votes -- he
would pull the measure from the Senate agenda and the trade bills
would be dead for the rest of the year.
Sen. William V. Roth Jr., R-Del., who heads the Finance
Committee, proclaimed Tuesday's vote a sign of the "strong
bipartisan support for the legislation." After last Friday's vote,
Roth angrily accused Democrats of "isolationism."
Clinton, his top national security aides and Senate Democrats
have emphasized the issue of isolationism since the Senate's
rejected a treaty to ban underground nuclear testing three weeks
If the Senate approves a trade package this week, it still must
reconcile differences with the House, which approved a bill, for
Africa only, by a vote of 234-163 in July.