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'Fast-Track' Is Key To Americas Pact For Manufacturers

By John S. McClenahen The Bush Administration is trying to change the jargon of Washington, insisting that what used to be called presidential "fast-track" trade negotiating authority now be known as trade promotion authority (TPA). But while the White House has not altered a lot of vocabularies yet, in the wake of last weekend's Summit of the Americas in Québec City the need for renewed presidential power to submit trade agreements for a simple "Yes" or "No" vote in Congress is pretty clear. Indeed, without TPA for President Bush, few of the other 33 democracies in the Western Hemisphere are prepared to negotiate seriously with the U.S. on a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). The No. 1 priority for U.S. manufacturers is "getting trade promotion authority for the President," says Frank J. Vargo, vice president for international economic affairs at the National Assn. of Manufacturers, Washington. "We would really like to see [it] sometime this year." The White House has been without such negotiating authority since 1995, when Congress was unable to reconcile the competing demands of doctrinaire free-traders with those of worker and environmental advocates. Achieving TPA this year "requires that we get enough of a consensus in Congress about the negotiating objectives [for an FTAA], including labor and environment," acknowledges Vargo. He is hopeful that work U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick has been doing on Capitol Hill along with an emerging willingness within the U.S. business community to look at alternatives short of trade sanctions to help meet worker and environmental concerns will ultimately pay off. "We can't afford to be out of the FTAA," Vargo insists.

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