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Senate Strips Romania of Trade Benefit

June 27, 1987|OSWALD JOHNSTON | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — The Senate on Friday rebuked Romania for its deteriorating human rights record by voting to strip that nation of its preferred trading status with the United States for six months. It also decided to bar the special status from any nation identified as supporting terrorism.

The actions were among the first taken on a massive trade bill now before the chamber. Senators worked late Friday and planned a rare Saturday session. Hundreds of amendments are said to be planned in debate that could take weeks.

The measure punishing Romania was pressed by Sens. William L. Armstrong (R-Colo.) and Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) and passed 57-36.

Armstrong, speaking for his proposal, called Romania "one of the most repressive regimes in the world" and added: "If this country wishes to enjoy a privileged status . . . they must begin to bring human rights practices into line."

Such action has been opposed by the Administration. Like earlier administrations, it has liked Romania's independent, often anti-Soviet foreign policy line within the Eastern Bloc. Other Communist countries enjoying "most favored nation" status are China, Poland and Hungary. Products imported from those countries enjoy the same relatively low tariff rates extended to the United States' main trading partners.

'Inflict Pain on Families'

Sen. John Danforth (R-Mo.), arguing for the Administration position, said that denying Romania the favored status would eliminate U.S. leverage to improve its human rights policies. It would also "inflict severe pain on families that now have hope" that they will be allowed to leave Romania.

The measure approved would reinstate "most favored nation" status after six months, pending a review of Romania's progress on human rights.

The action withdrawing preferred trade status to nations supporting terrorism was directed at Iran, Syria and Libya. Although those nations are still technically listed in the "most favored nation" category, the United States has no trade with Libya or Iran, and commerce with Syria is minimal.

Sen. Gordon J. Humphrey (R-N.H.) also won voice-vote passage of an amendment to bar trade with nations that "commit genocide against their own people." The measure targeted Afghanistan.

At other stages of Friday's long session, the Senate adopted:

-- An amendment urging the Administration to negotiate a free trade zone among the United States, Canada, Mexico and Central America. The Administration is already negotiating a free trade agreement with Canada.

-- An amendment authorizing imposition of duties to retaliate against subsidized exports of hogs from Canada.

-- A resolution expressing disapproval of the military government in Panama.

Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.), determined to spur action on more issues, came down on the floor several times to plead with senators to bring forward their amendments, but few were prepared to do so.

Limit Presidential Authority

The trade bill currently would limit presidential authority on trade policy and also would make it much easier for industries hurt by competition to gain automatic relief in the form of tariffs, quotas or retaliation against alleged unfair trade practices by foreigners. A host of amendments expected to be offered would either tighten or dilute those provisions. The House already has passed its version of the trade bill and the two bills would have to be reconciled in conference committee.

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