Tonight, the Senate is scheduled to take up a procedural vote on the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), a program that allows certain products from less developed countries to enter the U.S. duty-free. Beyond bringing new economic opportunities to more impoverished parts of the world; by eliminating tariffs, this program has also kept prices low for American consumers, reaping a cost savings of $580 million per year.
Unfortunately, the GSP expired in December 2010 and was never reauthorized due to the actions of one Senator. In February of this year, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, refused to lift a hold on the bill because he wasn’t able to insert a provision that would increase tariffs on Bangladeshi imports in order to protect Alabama sleeping bag manufacturers from competition. As a result of the Senator’s protectionist leanings, tariffs were raised on approximately 3,400 imports, affecting $23 billion in global trade.
Well, Sen. Sessions is at it again. According to Roll Call:
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) has enlisted the aid of an anti-free-trade group in his quixotic campaign to provide protections for an Alabama sleeping bag maker as part of a looming trade bill.
In an eleventh-hour bid to add an earmark to the Generalized System of Preferences measure, Sessions has called in the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition — despite the fact that he has long been a supporter of free-trade deals that AMTAC has vehemently opposed.
Luckily, it appears Sessions efforts will be in vain. However, it must be acknowledged, no matter how fruitless, his actions can be described as nothing more than reckless. Passage of GSP is an essential part of the delicate path to bringing the pending agreements with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama to a vote. These agreements are projected to bring hundreds of thousands of new jobs to America and countless cost savings for American consumers and businesses. With much of the focus in Washington on jobs and the economy, these agreements are more important than ever before. Yet, the Senator from Alabama apparently believes protecting a political ally is much more important than bringing lower prices to millions of Americans.