Washington, DC — The Distilled Spirits Council today applauded the U.S. House of Representatives for passing, 215-212, the bipartisan Trade Act of 2002 (HR 3009) early Saturday morning, calling the legislation key to opening foreign markets to American spirits products and expanded global spirits commerce generally. The Council also called on the U.S. Senate to finish the job by passing the bill before it adjourns for its August recess later this week. The legislation would require Congress to consider trade agreements on a straight “up-or-down” vote, without amendments. President Bush, who has made Trade Negotiating Authority a center piece of his economic agenda, is expected to sign the bill. “The House has taken a huge step toward putting America’s trade policy back on track,” said Council senior vice president for international trade Deborah Lamb. “Now it is up to the Senate to finish the job and help put American products and commerce on equal footing in the global marketplace.” She added, “We applaud members of Congress for taking what, for some, was a politically tough vote. The benefits of free trade to American consumers, the spirits industry and the economy will be significant.” The President’s trade negotiating authority, formerly known as “fast track,” lapsed in 1994, putting U.S. trade policy on hold and permitting foreign competitors to gain considerable advantages in markets around the globe. Lamb cited the case of the Mercosur countries—Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay—where European free-trade negotiations are at an advanced stage. Once concluded, their spirits products will enter those countries duty-free. In contrast, U.S. spirits products will continue to face a stiff 23 percent tariff. Another example is Chile, where Canadian Whisky and Mexican Tequila benefit from free trade agreements, while American products continue to be slapped with a seven percent tariff. “These are just a few recent examples that have translated into significant disadvantages and lost opportunities for U.S. companies,” Lamb stated. “The quick Senate vote and the President’s signature will give the green light to American negotiators to jump back into the fray and end the discriminatory treatment of our products as soon as possible.” The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States is the national trade association representing the producers and marketers of distilled spirits sold in America and throughout the world.