Another Issue to Address

W.House urges fast-track trade authority renewal
Mon Jan 29, 2:33 PM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House urged Congress on Monday to renew key trade negotiating authority that expires in just a few months and said time was running short for countries to reach a new world trade deal.

“We certainly think it is important that Congress renew it,” White House spokesman Tony Snow said, referring to fast-track trade legislation that requires lawmakers to vote “yes” or “no” on agreements negotiated by the White House without making any changes.

“It is an important device in extending free trade, and also allowing negotiators to operate effectively,” Snow said.

The White House’s current fast-track trade promotion authority expires on July 1. Bush is expected to need an extension to complete the Doha round of world trade talks and possible trade deals with
South Korea and Malaysia.

Bush planned to talk about it this week in remarks either in Illinois or New York, Snow said. Many business groups were disappointed when Bush did not call for renewal of fast-track authority in his State of the Union speech last week.

The outlook for world trade talks, suspended six months ago because of disagreements over how far to cut farm subsidies and tariffs, has brightened in recent weeks, raising hopes for a possible breakthrough in coming months.

“We are in a very important part of negotiations. We have a small window to get a lot of things done. I know all sides are working very hard on this. The president is deeply committed to working with all our allies and they’ve assured us that they’re committed also to working with us,” Snow said.

Many analysts believe Bush needs a breakthrough in world trade talks to have any chance of persuading the Democratic-controlled Congress to approve an extension of his trade promotion authority. Many Democrats oppose free-trade agreements, while others say they can only support them if the Bush administration includes tougher labor and environmental provisions than it has so far.


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