GOP Announces Plans for Trade Bill
WASHINGTON (AP) _ House Republicans are offering their major trade initiative of the year, a bill to give President Bush enhanced authority to negotiate new international trade agreements.
GOP aides said the legislation would not set labor or environmental standards for any new trade deal, ensuring a battle with many Democrats who oppose any trade agreement that does not provide job and environmental protections.
Trade promotion authority allows the president to negotiate new trade agreements that Congress may approve or reject but cannot amend. In 1997 the GOP-led Congress refused to give former President Clinton that ``fast-track″ authority.
The Bush White House has asked for that authority, saying it is essential as a prelude to negotiations on a Western Hemisphere free-trade pact and a new World Trade Organization round to begin in November.
Many Democrats, however, object to legislation that does not give assurances that U.S. jobs won’t move overseas, that the rights of foreign workers are observed and that the agreements won’t be a means for industries to avoid tougher U.S. pollution standards.
``If this represents the start, then we have a long way to go in terms of properly addressing labor and environmental concerns and maintaining the integrity of existing U.S. trade laws,″ said Mike Siegel, spokesman for Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.
A GOP aide said the legislation, being made public Wednesday, would give the president authority to negotiate labor and environmental conditions _ but not standards. Those conditions would have to be directly related to the trade agreement, consistent with U.S. sovereignty, not be protectionist and not impede a country’s ability to make changes in its own laws.