Senate Okays Broader Trade Negotiating Powers

By Agence France-Presse The U.S. Senate Aug. 1 voted to grant President George W. Bush expanded authority to negotiate international trade agreements in a long-awaited victory for the White House. The Senate vote followed passage in the House of Representatives, sending the Trade Promotion Authority measure to the president. President George W. Bush hailed Congress' granting the White House broader powers to negotiate trade deals as crucial to reviving the U.S. economy. "What you all have done is make it much more likely that someone will be able to find work," Bush said in a conference call to lawmakers and administration officials directly after the 64-34 vote. The broad negotiating powers allow Bush's team to negotiate free trade deals that the U.S. Congress can only approve or reject, but not amend. The so-called "fast track" authority was allowed to lapse in 1994, and lawmakers since then have been unable to reconcile largely partisan differences over how labor and environmental issues, as well as anti-dumping laws, would be affected by the expected freer trade. Unlike previous "fast track" legislation, however, the current bill has several built-in restraints. U.S. trade negotiators are directed not to undermine U.S. trade remedy laws, which insulate the United States from having to absorb imports if they are found to negatively impact U.S. industry, and the president also will have to report to Congress six months before he signs any deal, laying out exactly what his administration plans to do with respect to those laws. Another key provision of the bill includes assistance to U.S. workers negatively impacted by the effects of international trade, such as import competition and shifts in production outside the United States. The legislation also renews trade preferences for the financially strapped Andean nations of Colombia, Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador. Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2002

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