U.S. Department of State
Press Statement by Richard Boucher, Spokesman
Belarus: GSP Benefits Withdrawn from Belarus
President Clinton, based on the recommendation of U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky, has signed a proclamation withdrawing benefits under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) from Belarus. The GSP provides benefits to beneficiary countries by allowing them to export to the U.S. certain items duty free subject to a number of conditions, including a provision that beneficiary countries must be taking steps to afford internationally recognized worker rights.
GSP was extended to the Central and Eastern European countries following the fall of communism in order to help with the transition to a market economy and democracy. Belarus has shown a lack of commitment to establishing democracy or a market economy.
In 1997, the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) filed a petition with the United States Trade Representative (USTR) requesting that the United States remove Belarus from GSP. The petition alleged that Belarus was not acting in accordance with the Trade Act of 1974, as amended, regarding internationally recognized worker rights. These include the freedom to form independent trade unions and the right to organize and bargain collectively.
While Belarusian authorities have continually promised to address these problems, harassment of and hostility to free trade unions continues to exist. We have also found that the situation in Belarus regarding internationally recognized worker rights is not isolated but in fact is taking place in an overall atmosphere of authoritarianism.
The suspension of GSP benefits does not have to be permanent and the U.S. is prepared to restore those benefits once Belarus makes substantial progress toward ensuring respect for internationally recognized worker rights and a strong commitment to the goals of the program, namely, transitioning to democracy and a market economy. We are always ready to discuss how Belarus can improve its record in this area
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