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US Senate overwhelmingly backs tax treaty with Chile


By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly on Thursday in favor of a tax treaty with Chile seen as crucial for ensuring access for U.S. companies to lithium, a mineral essential for electric vehicle batteries.

The Senate backed ratification by 95-2, comfortably over the two-thirds supermajority required to approve treaties in the 100-member chamber.

Final approval will send the treaty to the White House, which said President Joe Biden planned to sign it.

Chile’s Congress approved the treaty in 2015. It first came up in the U.S. Senate in 2012, but failed to advance partly due to opposition from Republican Senator Rand Paul – one of the no votes on Thursday – who said he was concerned it could allow foreign tax authorities to obtain information on U.S. citizens.

Business interests have been pushing for the tax agreement for years. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce called it an urgent priority. Without it, taxes on U.S. companies with Chilean operations could climb to more than 44%, the business group said.

U.S. companies have a strong presence in mining, finance and other industries in Chile.

“As the world races to advance clean technologies, Chile will be a critical ally for anyone looking to lead the way,” the Senate’s Democratic majority leader, Chuck Schumer, said on Thursday as he urged passage.

“If the United States is serious about remaining ahead of countries like China, it’s imperative we pass this treaty today,” Schumer said.

Chile announced a plan to expand lithium mining in the country in April in an attempt to regain its position as the world’s top lithium producer.

Backers of the agreement also said its failure could hobble the U.S. transition to clean energy.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Sandra Maler and Jonathan Oatis)

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