U.S. business, industry and agriculture groups launched a campaign Feb. 12 to persuade Congress to renew the government's "fast-track" authority to adopt trade deals. Speaking at the launch of the "Trade for America" coalition, U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab said the livelihoods of millions of U.S. and global workers depended on the extension of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA.)
She was backed by President George W. Bush, who linked TPA to the World Trade Organization's embattled "Doha Round" of talks, which are aimed at dismantling barriers to commerce in agriculture, industry and services. "The only way we can complete the Doha Round and make headway on other trade agreements is to extend Trade Promotion Authority, which is set to expire on July 1," Bush said in an earlier statement.
The new coalition includes the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the U.S. Council for International Business, the National Association of Manufacturers and the American Farm Bureau Federation. Heavyweight companies have also signed up including Wal-Mart Stores, Boeing, Time Warner and Procter and Gamble.
With the Democrats back in control of Congress many pundits have doubted TPA's prospects given rising rancor over globalization, as U.S. industry loses millions of jobs to cheaper places like China.Under the so-called fast-track authority, Bush has the ability to submit trade deals to approval by lawmakers in a straight "yes" or "no" vote, without amendment.
Schwab said she was encouraged by her contacts with key Democrats such as Charles Rangel, chairman of the House of Representatives ways and means committee, and Senate finance committee chairman Max Baucus. "No president should be without TPA," she stressed, arguing that getting the authority extended was a "vitally important mission" for U.S. trade and foreign-policy goals.
Leslie Griffin, a co-chair of Trade for America and vice president at New York Life Insurance Co., said nothing less than the "economic prosperity of our nation" was at stake. "America's major trade competitors, including the EU, China and Japan are actively and aggressively negotiating trade agreements throughout the world," she said. "To keep pace and ensure U.S. success at the negotiating table, Congress must renew this critical tool."
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2007