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Free Trade Pacts With Singapore, Chile Approved

August 01, 2003|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Senate gave final congressional approval Thursday to free trade agreements with Singapore and Chile.

The accords, already endorsed by the House, will "usher in a new era of enhanced economic ties" with the two nations, said Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee.

The Senate votes were 66-32 for Singapore and 66-31 for Chile.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick welcomed the passage of the agreements and suggested that they opened the way for more ambitious regional free trade zones being negotiated with all the nations of the Western Hemisphere.

Some senators voted against the pacts Thursday because of provisions allowing more foreign professional workers into the country. They were also not satisfied with worker and environmental protections in the pacts.

Under the "fast track" authority that Congress granted President Bush last year, the administration can negotiate international trade agreements that, while requiring congressional approval, can't be amended. The agreements are to take effect Jan. 1.

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