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Public Statements

Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Floor Speech

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Location: Washington, DC

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Mrs. FEINSTEIN. Mr. President, I rise today with my friend and colleague from Vermont, Senator Leahy to introduce the Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act of 2013.

Our legislation places common sense restrictions on the use of cluster munitions. It prevents any funds from being spent to use cluster munitions that have a failure rate of more than one percent.

In addition, the rules of engagement must specify that the cluster munitions will only be used against clearly defined military targets; and will not be used where civilians are known to be present or in areas normally inhabited by civilians.

Our legislation also includes a national security waiver that allows the President to waive the prohibition on the use of cluster munitions with a failure rate of more than one percent, if he determines it is vital to protect the security of the United States to do so.

However, if the President decides to waive the prohibition, he must issue a report to Congress within 30 days on the failure rate of the cluster munitions used and the steps taken to protect innocent civilians.

Cluster munitions are large bombs, rockets, or artillery shells that contain up to hundreds of small submunitions, or individual ``bomblets.''

They are intended for attacking enemy troop and armor formations spread over a half mile radius.

But, in reality, they pose a deadly threat to innocent civilians.

In Afghanistan, between October 2001 and November 2002, 127 civilians lost their lives due to cluster munitions, 70 percent of them under the age of 18.

An estimated 1,220 Kuwaitis and 400 Iraqi civilians have been killed by cluster munitions since 1991.

During the 2006 war in Lebanon, Israeli cluster munitions, many of them manufactured in the U.S., injured and killed 343 civilians.

Sadly, Syria is just the latest example.

According to Human Rights Watch, the Syrian military has used air-dropped and ground-based cluster munitions near or in civilian areas.

In October, residents of Taftanaz and Tamane reported that helicopters dropped cluster munitions on or near their towns. One resident told Human Rights Watch:

On October 9, I heard a big explosion followed by several smaller ones coming from Shelakh field located at the north of Taftanaz. We went to see what happened. We saw a big [bomb] cut in half and several [bomblets] that were not detonated. I personally found one that was not exploded. There were small holes in the ground. The holes were dispersed and spread over 300 meters.

Another resident reported that an air-dropped cluster munitions released bomblets that landed between two neighboring schools.

Last month, Human Rights Watch issued another report that Syrian forces used ``notoriously indiscriminate'' ground-based cluster munitions near Idlib and Latamenh, a town near Hama.

Not surprisingly, the residents of these towns also reported that many of the bomblets were dispersed over a wide area, failed to explode, and killed or maimed innocent civilians.

One resident of Latamneh told Human Rights Watch:

I heard a big explosion followed by smaller ones. ..... I saw wounded people everywhere and small bombs covering the streets. The damage caused to the buildings was minimal. I saw a lot of unexploded bomblets.

One civilian was killed during the attack and 15 more, including women and children, were wounded. Another civilian was later killed by an unexploded bomblet. One video shows a baby with shrapnel along his right arm.

Videos taken after the incident also show that the civilians who came across the munitions were unaware of the deadly power of an unexploded bomblet.

Men, and even children, can be seen handling these weapons as if they were toys or simply souvenirs from the war.

Now, the United States has rightly condemned the Syrian military's use of cluster munitions against innocent civilians.

However, our moral leadership is hampered by the fact that we continue to maintain such a large arsenal of these deadly weapons and our continued resistance to international efforts to restrict their use.

In fact, the United States maintains an estimated 5.5 million cluster munitions containing 728 million submunitions. These bomblets have an estimated failure rate of between 5 and 15 percent.

According to the most recent data, only 30,900 of these 728 million submunitions have self-destruct devices that would ensure a less than one percent failure rate.

That accounts for only 0.00004 percent of the U.S. arsenal.

So, the technology exists for the U.S. to meet the one percent standard, but our arsenal still overwhelmingly consists of cluster bombs with high failure rates.

How then, do we convince Syria not to use these deadly weapons?

While we wait, the international community has taken action.

On August 1, 2010, the Oslo Convention on Cluster Munitions--which would prohibit the production, use, and export of cluster munitions and requires signatories to eliminate their arsenals within eight years--formally came into force. To date, it has been signed by 111 countries and ratified by 77 countries.

This group includes key NATO allies such as Canada, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany, who are fighting alongside our troops in Afghanistan.

It includes 33 countries that have produced or used cluster bombs.

But it does not include the United States.

The United States chose not to participate in the Oslo process or sign the treaty.

This is unacceptable.

Instead, the Pentagon continues to assert that cluster munitions are ``legitimate weapons with clear military utility in combat.''

Recognizing that the United States could not remain silent in the face of widespread international efforts to restrict the use of cluster munitions, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates issued a new policy on cluster munitions in June, 2008 stating that, after 2018, the use, sale, and transfer of cluster munitions with a failure rate of more than 1 percent would be prohibited.

This policy is a step in the right direction, but would still allow the Pentagon to use cluster bombs with high failure rates for five more years.

That runs counter to our values. I believe the administration should take another look at this policy.

In fact, on September 29, 2009, Senator LEAHY and I were joined by 14 of our colleagues in sending a letter to President Obama urging him to conduct a thorough review of U.S. policy on cluster munitions.

On April 14, 2010, we received a response from then National Security Advisor Jim Jones stating that the administration will undertake this review following the policy review on U.S. landmines policy.

The administration should complete this review without delay.

Until then, we are still prepared to use these weapons with well-known failure rates and significant risks to innocent civilians?

What does that say about us?

The fact is, cluster munition technologies already exist that meet the one percent standard. Why do we need to wait until 2018?

This delay is especially troubling given that in 2001, former Secretary of Defense William Cohen issued his own policy on cluster munitions stating that, beginning in fiscal year 2005, all new cluster munitions must have a failure rate of less than one percent.

Unfortunately, the Pentagon was unable to meet this deadline and Secretary Gates' policy essentially postpones any meaningful action until 2018.

If we do nothing, close to twenty years will have passed since the Pentagon first recognized the threat these deadly weapons pose to innocent civilians.

We can do better.

First, it should be noted that in 2007, Congress passed, and President Bush signed into law, the FY 2008 Consolidated Appropriations Act, which included a provision that prohibits the sale and transfer of cluster bombs with a failure rate of more than one percent.

That ban has been renewed on an annual basis and remains on the books.

Our legislation simply moves up the Gates policy by five years and extends the ban on the sale and transfer of cluster munitions with high failure rates to our own arsenal.

For those of my colleagues who are concerned that it may be too soon to enact a ban on the use of cluster munitions with failure rates of more than 1 percent, I point out again that our bill allows the President to waive this restriction if he determines it is vital to protect the security of the United States to do so.

I would also remind my colleagues that the United States has not used cluster munitions in Iraq since 2003 and has observed a moratorium on their use in Afghanistan since 2002.

In conclusion, let me say that Senator LEAHY and I remain as committed as ever to raising awareness about the threat posed by cluster munitions and to pushing the United States to enact common-sense measures to protect innocent civilians. This body constantly talks about America's moral leadership, and this is the perfect opportunity to exercise it.

Senator Leahy and I continue our efforts for people like Phongsavath Souliyalat.

Last year, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton traveled to Laos and met Phongsavath, a 19-year old Lao man who lost his eyesight and his hands to a bomblet just three years before.

The bomblet that injured Phongsavath was dropped more than 30 years ago during the Vietnam War. It lay unexploded, a de facto landmine, until his 16th birthday.

Sadly, he is not alone. The U.S. dropped 270 million bomblets over Laos, and 30 percent failed to explode.

According to an article from the Los Angeles Times, civilians in one-third of Laos are threatened by unexploded ordinance, and only one percent of that area has been cleared.

Since the Vietnam War, more than 20,000 people have been killed or injured by these deadly weapons. All of them were innocent civilians that the United States did not intend to target.

After Phongsavath described the suffering of those who, like him, had been injured by unexploded bomblets, Secretary Clinton replied: ``We have to do more.''

I agree wholeheartedly. As a first step, Congress should pass the Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act of 2013. I urge my colleagues to support this important initiative.

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Mrs. FEINSTEIN. Mr. President, I rise today to introduce the Nepal Trade Preferences Act.

This legislation is simple and straightforward. It grants duty-free status to imports of Nepalese garments for a seven year period.

As a friend of Nepal and the Nepalese people for over 25 years, I believe this bill will promote economic prosperity and lasting political stability in one of the world's poorest countries.

Nepal has a per capita income of $540.

Approximately 25 percent of the Nepal's 24 million people live in poverty.

The unemployment rate in Nepal stands at a staggering 47 percent; and most Nepalese live on $3 a day.

Nepal's poverty was also compounded by a devastating, 10-year Maoist insurgency which resulted in the deaths of 13,000 people.

Thankfully, on November 21, 2006 Nepal's government and Maoist rebels signed a peace accord.

Two years later, Nepal became a republic and a Constituent Assembly was elected to draft a new constitution.

Unfortunately, this momentum has stalled and Nepal remains without a new constitution.

Challenges persist for Nepal's economy.

In 2005, in accordance with an international agreement, all quotas on garment imports were removed.

This has had a devastating impact on Nepal's garment industry as U.S. importers have shifted their orders to China, India and other suppliers with cheaper labor markets.

The number of people employed by the Nepalese garment industry dropped from over 100,000 people--half of them women to between 5,000 and 10,000.

Garment exports fell from approximately $139 million in 2000 to $47 million in 2011.

The number of garment factories plummeted from 450 to 10.

The U.S. share of Nepalese garment exports dropped from 90 percent to 21 percent.

Despite Nepal's poverty and the collapse of the garment industry, Nepalese garments are still subject to an average U.S. tariff of 11.7 percent and can be as high as 32 percent.

In essence, we are penalizing an impoverished country which cannot afford it. This makes no sense.

I would point out that U.S. tariffs on Nepalese garments stand in contrast to the European Union, Canada, and Australia which allow Nepalese garments into their markets duty free.

It should come as no surprise, then, that while the U.S. share of Nepalese garment exports has fallen, the European Union's share has risen from 18.14 percent in 2006 to 46 percent in 2010.

The purpose of the Nepal Trade Preferences Act is to ensure that we provide Nepal with the same trade preferences afforded to it by other developed countries. No more, no less.

Humanitarian and development assistance programs should be critical components of our efforts to help Nepal.

But we should also help the Nepalese people help themselves and open the U.S. market to a once thriving export industry.

In the end, economic growth and prosperity can be best achieved when Nepal is given the chance to compete and grow in a free and open global marketplace.

Success in that marketplace will lead to a lesser dependence on foreign aid and encourage Nepal to develop other viable export industries.

With this legislation, the United States can make a real difference now to help revitalize the garment industry in Nepal and promote economic growth and higher living standards.

The impact on the domestic industry will be minimal. At most, Nepalese garments have accounted for 0.26 percent of all garment imports in the United States generating $14 million in revenue.

Nepal will continue to be a small player in the U.S. market.

But to allay any concerns that Nepalese garments will somehow flood the market, this bill does place sensible restrictions on the amount of garments that will receive duty free status. That amount will rise every year up to a specific percentage of all U.S. garment imports.

By passing this legislation, we will help ensure that the garment industry will be a big player in contributing to Nepal's economic growth and development. This will be more jobs and a rising standard of living for the Nepalese people.

Let there be no doubt, it is my hope that this bill will also spur Nepal's political parties to come together, resolve their differences, and finalize a new constitution. Lasting political stability is essential if Nepal is to fully realize the economic benefits of this legislation.

Almost 7 years ago, the Nepalese people embraced peace and reconciliation. Let us show our solidarity with them and demonstrate our commitment to the success of the peace process by passing this commonsense measure.

I urge my colleagues to support the Nepal Trade Preferences Act.

By Mrs. FEINSTEIN:

S. 432. A bill to extend certain trade preferences to certain least-developed countries in Asia and the South Pacific, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Finance.

Mrs. FEINSTEIN. Mr. President, I rise today to introduce the Asia-South Pacific Trade Preferences Act of 2013, a bill to promote economic growth, democracy, and political stability in some of the world's poorest countries.

This legislation will provide duty-free and quota-free benefits for garments and other products similar to those afforded to beneficiary countries under the African Growth and Opportunity Act, AGOA.

The countries covered by this legislation are 13 Least Developed Countries, LDCs, as defined by the United Nations and the U.S. State Department, which are not covered by any current U.S. trade preference program: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, Kiribati, Laos, Maldives, Nepal, Samoa, Solomon Islands, East Timor, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.

These countries are among the poorest in the world with the bulk of their citizens living on less than $1 a day.

Despite this widespread poverty, their exports are subject to some of the highest U.S. tariffs, averaging around 16 percent.

In fact, these developing countries pay a disproportionate share of U.S. tariffs.

Bangladesh, for example, is the 9th largest contributor of U.S. tariffs even though it is the 46th largest source of U.S. imports.

Cambodia is the 12th largest contributor of U.S. tariffs but ranks as the 60th largest source of U.S. imports.

So, in essence, these two developing countries pay more in U.S. tariffs than many European countries. How is that fair or consistent with our values?

Unfortunately, the United States is the only developed nation that has not provided an enhanced trade preference program to the beneficiary countries in this bill.

Indeed, we maintain duty preference programs for Haiti, the countries of sub-Saharan African and other developing countries and rightly so. These programs are critical components of our efforts to provide hope for millions of people struggling with poverty.

But it makes no sense to exclude other countries at the same level of economic development. We should not hesitate to correct this inequity.

This is not about pitting one developing country against the other. Rather, it is a simple matter of fairness and ensuring that we help all of those in need.

In fact, this effort goes hand in hand with my long-standing support for a strong and effective foreign aid budget for the United States as an essential tool in helping lift these countries out of poverty and put them on the path to economic prosperity and political stability.

Especially in these difficult fiscal times, however, humanitarian and development assistance should not be the sum total of our efforts.

Make no mistake: these programs help stabilize poor and war-torn countries, save lives, and lay the foundation for future prosperity.

Yet, the key for sustained growth, jobs, and rising standards of living will be the ability of each of these countries to create vital export industries to compete in a free and open global marketplace.

It is clear that the textile and apparel industries in many of the Asia-South Pacific countries in this bill are those industries that hold out the best hope for export growth.

We should help these countries help themselves by opening the U.S. market to their exports as we have done for other developing countries in the past.

By doing so, we will demonstrate the best of American values: reaching out to neighbors in need and helping them to stand on their own two feet.

We will also help ourselves.

First, as these countries become more prosperous, we will see new opportunities for our own exports in their growing markets.

This, in turn, will create jobs and economic growth in our own country.

But if we maintain high tariffs on imports from the Asia-South Pacific countries, those opportunities will likely go to the European Union and other developed countries that already have trade preference programs for these countries.

We should not put ourselves at such a disadvantage.

Second, as the Asia-South Pacific countries become more stable politically, we will help protect U.S. national security interests by preventing failed states which could become breeding grounds for terror.

There is no doubt in my mind that the cost of lowering tariffs on the imports of textile and apparel products from the Asia-South Pacific countries is far less than any military intervention.

We will also help ourselves by securing partners in the fight against global threats such as terrorism, climate change, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

U.S. leadership is essential in those efforts. But they require a global, multilateral response. As these countries grow, they can assume a larger role and contribute more effectively.

When it comes to our national security, every bit of assistance helps.

Finally, at a time of economic uncertainty, by eliminating tariffs on imports from the Asia-South Pacific countries, this bill will help lower prices for the American consumers and provide them with more options.

It will also help the 3 million American workers whose jobs depend on apparel imports.

There is no doubt in my mind that the Asia-South Pacific Trade Preferences Act is a win-win for the U.S. and the Asia-South Pacific countries.

Now, let me address some of the concerns that may be raised about this bill.

First, many of the Asia-South Pacific countries have struggled in the past with corruption, a lack of democracy, human rights abuses, and the absence of rule of law.

Some may ask: why reward these countries with a trade preference program?

Make no mistake. These countries will not automatically receive the trade benefits provided by this legislation.

This legislation has been drafted to ensure that the benefits are granted on a performance-driven basis.

That is, to be eligible, a beneficiary country must demonstrate that it is making continual progress toward establishing rule of law, political pluralism, the right to due process, and a market-based economy that protects private property rights.

So, this legislation would help promote democracy, human rights, and the rule of law while sustaining vital export industries and creating employment opportunities.

The beneficiary countries have a clear incentive to stay on the right path or they will lose the benefits of this bill.

If we ignore any problems, we will sustain the status quo and our efforts will fail.

Finally, whenever we discuss the creation of a new trade preference program, understandable concerns are raised about the impact on domestic manufacturers.

If this bill becomes law, however, the impact on U.S. jobs will be minimal.

Currently, the beneficiary countries under this legislation account for only 4 percent of U.S. textile and apparel imports, compared to 24 percent for China, and 72 percent for the rest of the world.

These countries will continue to be small players in the U.S. market, but the benefits of this legislation will have a major impact on their export economies.

By passing this legislation we will have an opportunity to change lives, protect our national security interests, and help the American consumer. We should seize this opportunity.

I respectfully ask for the support of all my colleagues for this important initiative.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the Record.

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