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A top Republican lawmaker said he expected the US Congress to approve a free trade agreement with Chile, despite sore feelings caused by the country’s refusal to back a UN resolution calling for the use of force to disarm Iraq.
“Right now, there’s some people who have raised some concern because of the United Nations but I think we’re going to move beyond that quickly,” said David Drier, a California Republican who chairs the Rules Committee in the House of Representatives and a leader on trade issues.
The United States and Singapore are expected to sign a free trade agreement when Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong meets with President George W Bush on May 6.
However, the Bush administration has not set a date for signing the Chile agreement, even though negotiations on the two trade pacts were completed at roughly the same time.
Chile irked US officials when it opposed a UN Security Council resolution that would have authorised an immediate Iraq invasion. Instead, Chile suggested a three-week ultimatum that was rejected by the Bush administration.
As one of the 15 members of the Security Council, Chile faced a decision that Singapore did not.But unlike Chile, Singapore is a member of the international coalition that supported the invasion.
Despite the delay in setting a date to sign the Chile agreement, Drier said he was certain the White House was not having second thoughts about the pact. “The administration is strongly committed to a US-Chile free trade agreement,” Drier said.
Bill Lane, Washington director of government affairs for Caterpillar, said the business community would like the United States to sign the Chile trade agreement at the same time as the Singapore pact. “It’s just absolutely critical that the Chile agreement get approved as soon as possible,” Lane said. “We need to promote manufacturing jobs in America.”
The US-Chile Free Trade Agreement would immediately eliminate tariffs on a large number of US manufactured goods that are currently at an disadvantage to suppliers in countries like Canada that already have a free trade pact with Chile.