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US Congress Approves Free Trade Agreements with Chile, Singapore - 2003-08-01


The U.S. Senate has approved free-trade agreements with Chile and Singapore in a legislative victory for the Bush administration.

One week after the House approved the two trade pacts signed by the Bush administration, the Senate followed suit.

Congress last year agreed to give the president the authority to negotiate trade accords that could be voted up or down by lawmakers, but not modified.

Supporters of the two trade pacts, including Senator Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican, argue they will benefit American workers and consumers.

"I support them because they open markets for exports of U.S. agricultural products, manufactured goods as well as services," he said. "I support them because they will create opportunities for job growth here in the United States."

But opponents, mostly Democrats, argue the free trade agreements would result in lost U.S. jobs.

"More and more and more we see jobs in factories that are moved overseas that used to be good American jobs," said Senator Byron Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat.

Other opponents say the accords would erode labor and environmental standards, an argument denied by supporters. Senator Christopher Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat, expressed his concerns.

"These two agreements break new ground with the inclusion of specialized immigration provisions, which weaken existing safeguards against U.S. employers displacing American workers with lower-wage, non-immigrant visa holders," he said.

Singapore and Chile join only four other nations, Canada, Mexico, Israel and Jordan, having free trade agreements with the United States.