Today U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (WA-09) and his colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass H.R. 6406, which will extend trade preferences for developing nations and to establish permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) with Vietnam.  The bill passed by a vote of 212 to 184.

The measure extended the Andean Trade Preference Act (ATPA) preference program for six months, the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) for two years, and a critical provision of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) for five years, in addition to establishing PNTR with Vietnam.

As a co-chair of the New Democrat Coalition, Smith supports trade preferences to help grow more robust economies and reduce poverty in underdeveloped nations.  These countries in turn provide larger, more stable markets for U.S.-made goods.  He was joined in his support for this legislation by groups including the ONE Campaign, Oxfam America, and Women’s Edge.

This measure also includes a provision to allow limits on imports from nations whose exports to the United States grow beyond certain levels or who develop beyond the need for preferential market access. 

“Impoverished countries need more than our sympathy; they need access to markets for their goods.  By extending these trade preferences, the United States shows that we are good neighbors in the global community and that we are partners in their fight to break out of the poverty trap.  America gains international credibility, increased stability in regions key to our security, and growing markets for our goods and services through these trade preference programs,” Smith said.

Smith’s support of these provisions is part of his larger effort to address global poverty.  He led a New Democrat Coalition effort to rally support among his congressional colleagues for this measure last week (see attached letter).  He is also the sponsor of the Global Poverty Act, H.R. 3605, in the House of Representatives and is an advocate for increased trade with developing nations to help them break out of the poverty trap.

By normalizing trade with Vietnam, the bill provides market access for American goods and services.  And, by approving Vietnam for World Trade Organization (WTO) membership, the United States gains a system for the resolution of trade disputes with a country that is our fastest growing export market in Asia.  Smith also hopes that this final step in normalizing relations with Vietnam will lead to greater economic and political liberalization.

“Vietnam is one of South Asia’s economic engines.  It is also a key export market for Washington State, which had $32.5 million in total exports to Vietnam in 2005.  The U.S. should not miss the chance to invest and trade in this growing market.  I am pleased this legislation permanently establishes normal trade relations with our newest WTO member.  The resulting transparency and dispute resolution process means that trade will be fairer and more likely to benefit American workers and companies,” Smith said.