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Lack of fast track will hamper trade talks, leaders say

December 8, 1997

MIAMI (AP) _ President Clinton’s failure to get fast-track authority from Congress has had a chilling effect on negotiations for a hemispheric free trade zone, government leaders said Monday.

About 1,000 business and government leaders from throughout the Americas are meeting at the 21st Miami Conference on the Caribbean and Latin America through Thursday.

The first day’s topic was the Free Trade Area of the Americas _ the goal set forth by the hemisphere’s leaders at the 1994 Summit of the Americas in Miami.

Congress’ refusal to give Clinton permission to negotiate a trade agreement that would be subject to only an up-or-down vote in the Senate has had the effect of putting FTAA negotiations on a ``slow track,″ said Costa Rica’s Minister of Foreign Trade Jose Manuel Salazar.

``We have very substantial issues still to decide,″ he said.

The United States would be at the table regardless of fast-track authority, he said, but adding that ``the weight of the negotiations and the leadership of the U.S. will not be the same without it.″

``We are all very disappointed the Americans don’t have fast track,″ said Kathryn McCallion, Canada’s chief trade commissioner and assistant deputy minister of foreign affairs.

Without the authority, she said, ``In real terms there will be a slowdown. Some countries will take a breath.″

Genaro Arriagada, a special adviser to Chilean President Eduardo Frei, who is hosting a Summit of the Americas in April, said Americans don’t understand the importance of Latin America to the U.S. economy.

Chile, for example, buys more exports from the United States than India and Argentina is a bigger trading partner than Russia, he said.

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