NU Online News Service, Aug. 1, 2003, 6:04 p.m. EDT – The U.S. Senate voted 66-32 Thursday to approve a free trade agreement with Singapore and 66-31 to approve a similar agreement with Chile.

The agreements are supposed to knock down barriers to free trade in services as well as goods.

The House approved the trade agreements July 24.

The American Council of Life Insurers, Washington, put out a statement welcoming the Senate’s votes on the pacts with Chile and Singapore.

The Bush administration is supporting the trade agreements, and they are scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2004.

The agreements with Chile and Singapore “promote commerce and provide access to these growing markets for U.S. insurance, pension, and retirement security providers,” the ACLI says. “They also include regulatory ?best practices,’ which will help streamline innovation and encourage competition.”

Principal Financial Group Inc., Des Moines, Iowa, which has a big international insurance operation, also praised the Senate trade votes.

The two new trade agreements “set a benchmark for future agreements between the U.S. and the rest of the world,” says Norman Sorensen, president of Principal’s Principal International unit.