By John S. McClenahen Unless there's a dramatic political shift, the U.S. Senate next year will take up and approve legislation giving the White House so-called trade promotion authority (TPA). The House of Representatives approved its version of TPA by a single vote (215-214) on Dec. 6. Assuming the Senate does approve TPA, the legislation will move to a conference committee to reconcile any differences with the House version before returning to each chamber of Congress for a final vote. "TPA offers a chance we haven't had since 1994 to level the playing field in the global marketplace for American exporters, particularly manufacturers," says Michael Baroody, executive vice president of the National Assn. of Manufacturers, Washington. "There are now more than 130 free trade agreements in effect around the world, and the U.S. is party to exactly three. We have a lot of catching up to do." TPA, once known as fast-track authority, would allow Congress to approve or reject -- but not to amend -- any trade deals the U.S. makes with other nations. It is generally considered vital to getting serious negotiation going in the world trade talks approved last month by the members of the World Trade Organization.