U.S. House Committee approves Turkey’s preferences for tribal trade

PanARMENIAN.Net - The U.S. House Natural Resources Committee voted today to limit foreign trade preferences on Indian tribal lands to one country – Turkey – after proponents of the measure, resorting to parliamentary tactics, blocked the consideration of a human rights amendment that would have provided investment opportunities to a broader range of qualifying countries, reported the Armenian National Committee of America.

“The controversy over this preferential trade measure reflects the growing unease in Congress over an increasingly arrogant and aggressive Turkey that uses both high-priced lobbying and heavy-handed bullying to demand special treatment, even as it leaders disdain our values, undermine our interests, and threaten our allies,” said Aram Hamparian, ANCA’s Executive Director. “We are disappointed that the Sarbanes Amendment – a constructive measure which deserved an up-or-down vote – was blocked, not on its merits, but through parliamentary measures.”

“The ANCA joins with all our Armenian, Hellenic, and human rights community partners in expressing our appreciation to Representatives Sarbanes, Pallone, Tsongas and Duncan for all their efforts, and look forward to working with our allies in working reverse this measure in the interest of a strong, balanced, and moral U.S. trade policy,” added Hamparian.

Maryland Democrat John Sarbanes (D-MD) led Committee efforts to amend H.R.2362 – The Indian Tribal Trade and Investment Demonstration Project Act of 2011, a resolution spearheaded by the Turkish lobby to provide special trade incentives for Turkish firms to invest on Indian Tribal lands. Citing concerns about Turkey’s history of repression of its own indigenous populations and reports that the provision would violate existing U.S. trade agreements, Rep. Sarbanes argued that the legislation should be expanded to all countries with strong human rights records.

Committee chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA), however, responding to an objection by Rep. Don Young (R-AK), ruled the Sarbanes amendment out of order, paving the way for a Committee vote on the underlying provision as introduced. Despite extensive debate, including strong statements by Rep. Sarbanes, Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Rep. Nikki Tsongas (D-MA) and John Duncan (R-TN), the Committee adopted the measure by a vote of 27 for and 15 against.

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