The US Congress has approved a package of trade measures, including a provision that grants Vietnam Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) status, and extensions of trade preferences for Andean and sub-Saharan countries.

The legislation, HR 6111, which also contains other non-trade provisions, including several expiring tax breaks, was approved on 8 December by the House on a vote of 212 to 184. The Senate approved the measure, a few hours later, by a vote of 79 to 9. 

The bill now goes to the President for his signature.

HR 6111 extends the third-country fabric provisions under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) until 2012, allowing eligible African countries to export apparel to the US even if the fabric comes from another country.

Another trade measure is a conditional one-year extension of the Andean trade preference programme with Colombia, Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador, which was originally set to expire at the end of this year.

The package also includes new trade preferences that allow apparel made in Haiti to use third-country fabrics in its duty-free apparel exports to the US market - and an extension of the third-country fabric provisions under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) until 2012. 

Finally, the legislation includes a provision extending the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) programme for two years.

Granting Vietnam PNTR status means the country is now eligible for the same customs and tariff treatment the US gives to other PNTR countries and is consistent with World Trade Organisation rules.

"Passage of this important piece of legislation enables the stable and beneficial linkages between US apparel, footwear and textile companies and their partners in countries throughout the Western Hemisphere, Africa and Asia to not only continue, but to grow into the future," said Kevin M Burke, president and CEO of the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA).