Congressman Jim McDermott, Washington Democrat and co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, last week successfully snuck in a trade amendment to reinstate General System of Preferences trade benefits to India, inside a legislation to put the squeeze on the military junta now ruling Myanmar by amending the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act of 2003.
The legislation was adopted unanimously by the US House of Representatives and along with it the McDermott amendment that guarantees the continuance of duty free status for gold jewellery manufactured in India and Thailand and exported to the United States.
Last year, peeved over what 'India's intransigence in refusing to carry the developing world with it in moving forward the stalled Doha Round of the World Trade Organization,' the Bush Administration had denied India the Generalized Systems of Preferences trade benefits, arguing that India is no longer entitled to such concessions.
In a statement announcing the passage of his amendment that McDermott had included inside the larger Lantos-authored The Block Burmese JADE (Junta's Anti-Democratic Efforts) Act 3890) to block the importation of 'blood rubies from Burma into the United States and prevent American taxpayer money from subsidizing business activities in Burma by US companies--most notably Chevron,' McDermott said, "This amendment is good for India and Thailand, and it supports thousands of US jobs in the jewelry retail sector."
He said that India and Thailand, while making steady progress in raising the standard of living and providing economic justice for their people, "are nations where the majority of people still live at or below subsistence level earning as little as two dollars a day."
Over the last six years, the amount of gold jewelry exported from India had grown from under half-a-billion dollars to over $2.2 billion, but exports had dropped dramatically this summer when the trade preference was revoked.
McDermott said his amendment restores the preference and has no ending date.
The 32-year-old GSP program waives import duties on several thousand products from 133 developing countries and India, over the years has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the program, especially since it envisages tariff-free entry to a wide range of products, from pharmaceutical items to jewellery -- two of India's burgeoning exports to the US.