WASHINGTON, D.C., May 24, 2002 – The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States applauded the Senate’s passage yesterday of the Trade Act of 2002, calling the legislation an important tool in knocking down discriminatory trade barriers against distilled spirits exports. Similar legislation passed the House on December 6, 2001, by a vote of 215-214, and the differences between the two versions must now be resolved in a conference committee. “The Senate’s strong, bipartisan vote should send a signal to the rest of the world: the United States is serious about moving forward with important trade negotiations,” said Distilled Spirits Council President Peter H. Cressy. He stated that this would have a positive effect on the new round of negotiations in the World Trade Organization, the Free Trade Area of the Americas and U.S.-Chile Free Trade Agreement negotiations. The legislation would require Congress to consider trade agreements on a straight “up-or-down” vote, without amendments. The process, formerly known as “fast track” authority, lapsed in 1994, putting U.S. trade policy on hold and permitting foreign competitors to gain considerable advantages in markets around the globe. Trade negotiations are critical for the distilled spirits industry, which confronts significant tariff and non-tariff barriers in important emerging markets including India, which imposes effective tariffs ranging from 340-413 percent and the Central and East European countries, which grant preferential access to European spirits. “Our best – and in some cases our only – chance at eliminating these barriers is through trade negotiations,” said Cressy. “We hope that a conference agreement will be reached soon and approved promptly by the House and Senate, so that the negotiations can proceed in earnest.”