- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 19, 2005

TRADE for the poor

The ambassador of Bangladesh is worried that the world’s poorest nations will be in jeopardy unless Congress passes a trade bill to eliminate tariffs on textile imports.

Ambassador Shamsher Chowdhury warned that his country and others in and around Asia and the Pacific Ocean face “massive unemployment of women, … economic and social instability and other possible ramifications, including limiting their efforts at eradicating poverty,” if Congress defeats the bill, named the Tariff Relief Assistance for Developing Economies (TRADE) Act.

The bill would remove import duties on several of the world’s poorest nations and allow them to compete against larger countries, such as China, now that the United States has eliminated all quotas on foreign imports of textiles.

“The least-developed countries of Asia and the Pacific face a growing competitive threat from larger supplying nations to the U.S. market with the end of the quota system,” he said.

“The [apparel] industry is already weakened after the [removal of quotas], and small- and medium-sized enterprises face extinction,” the ambassador said.

Mr. Chowdhury, in an analysis of the TRADE Act, acknowledged that the removal of quotas helps U.S. industry buy “apparel from any country they want, free of the complex system that constricted global apparel trade for over three decades.”

He said the smaller nations in the Asian and Pacific region face a double burden. The elimination of U.S. quotas means China and other large nations can flood the American markets, while the poorer countries still labor under tariffs that average 17 percent.

The TRADE Act would lift the duties on textile imports from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, East Timor, Kiribati, Laos, the Maldives, Nepal, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Yemen.

“The benefits the act would bring to the countries concerned is hard to ignore and would create a positive influence in these poor countries,” he said.

Mr. Chowdhury said the United States is Bangladesh’s largest market for textiles.

“The significance of our trade relations with the United States can be understood from the single fact that nearly one-third of our worldwide exports goes to the United States,” he said.

Forum on Iran

A congressional forum today will hold a briefing on the threats posed by Iran’s support for terrorism and its efforts to develop a nuclear weapon.

“Iran’s ongoing efforts to secure nuclear-weapons capability present a unique and troublesome challenge to the civilized world,” said a group of three Democrats and three Republicans who are organizing the forum.

“For over a quarter of a century, the mullahs in Iran have leveraged the resources of the Iranian people toward questionable goals, while brutally suppressing the Iranian people and supporting international terrorism.”

The briefing will feature Iran analysts, women’s rights activists and government officials, they said.

The forum, from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. in Room HC5 of the Capitol, is sponsored by Republican Reps. John Boozman of Arkansas, Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida and Tom Tancredo of Colorado; and Democratic Reps. William Lacy Clay of Missouri, Bob Filner of California and Edolphus Towns of New York.

Taiwan independence

On his U.S. visit, a former president of the democratic Republic of China (Taiwan) is promoting independence and challenging communist China to abandon its claim on his island nation.

Lee Teng-Hui, who holds a 10 a.m. press conference today at the National Press Club, began his trip earlier this week in Alaska, where he said the “greatest threat facing” China is not Taiwan but “democracy, which threatens the legitimacy and existence of the totalitarian regime.”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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