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My previous post about Congressional in-fighting preventing the extension of trade preferences was quickly overtaken by events. To my surprise, the lame-duck Congress hammered out a better-than-expected trade package, though it will likely be passed as part of a bloated catch-all bill that has been thrown together in a process that short-changes transparency and accountability. The trade part of the deal extends several preference program, expands the benefits for Haiti, and authorizes permanent normal trade relations for Vietnam. While passage is expected, it is not guaranteed.
The outcome is still far less generous to low-income countries than we should expect from a country as powerful and wealthy as the United States and the process was deplorable, but the deal is better than nothing. Before preferences for poor countries expire again we need a major overhaul to rationalize the mishmash of existing programs and to make a reformed program permanent, so that no one has to go through this mess again.