Nov. 19, 2004
MISCELLANEOUS TRADE AND TECHNICAL CORRECTIONS ACT OF 2004-CONFERENCE REPORT
Mr. KOHL. Mr. President, I am deeply troubled by the series of events which have brought us here today. The miscellaneous tariff bill, a relatively noncontroversial bill that has been making its way through the Congress for more than a year now, which is full of worthy noncontroversial provisions, has become the vehicle to pass a bill that is controversial, to say the least.
At the eleventh hour, behind closed doors, the conferees on this bill decided to tack on a bill to grant normal trade relations status to the Communist Laos People's Democratic Republic, one of the few remaining Communist states on the Earth.
For many years, I have worked to shed light on the serious allegations of human rights violations in Laos, many involving the status of the Hmong ethnic minority. By attaching Laos NTR to this bill without any opportunity to debate it and to consider it on its merits, we are missing an important opportunity to hold the Lao Government accountable. We are also missing an important opportunity to press the Lao Government to allow credible international observers into Laos and into the remote jungles where the Hmong ethnic minority live.
We should not be proceeding to this bill in its current form. The Finance Committee could have easily stripped the Laos NTR provisions from the conference report and passed a clean version of the miscellaneous tariff bill. Then we could have had a real debate on Laos NTR at a more appropriate time.
I will have more to say on this matter after the cloture vote. I urge my colleagues to vote against cloture so that Laos NTR can be considered on its merits and not part of an omnibus trade package.
I yield the floor.