Congressional Negotiators Ready To Tackle Trade Bill

By John S. McClenahen With members of Congress focused on writing new corporate governance rules and creating a new cabinet department of homeland security, pending trade legislation has not received much attention during the past couple of weeks. That could change between now and the end of July. The Senate has now named its representatives to a conference committee that must work out differences with the House of Representatives on new negotiating authority -- called Trade Promotion Authority -- for the White House, trade adjustment assistance for workers, and renewal of trade preferences for Andean Pact nations. The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), Washington, D.C., is urging the members of Congress to get to work immediately and pass a bill before they take off for their August vacations. "Time really is of the essence," stresses Frank Vargo, NAM's vice president for international economic affairs. "All U.S. trade negotiations are bogged down because strong U.S. leadership is not possible without trade promotion authority," he asserts. Currently pending are the Doha Round of global trade negotiations under the auspices of the World Trade Organization, creation of an Arctic-to-Argentina free trade area for the Americas, and U.S. bilateral trade agreements with Chile and Singapore. Presidential trade promotion authority, formerly known as fast-track authority, expired in 1994. Like it, the pending measure would allow the White House to submit trade pacts it has negotiated with other nations to Congress for approval or rejection, but not for amendment.

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