WASHINGTON (FNS) -- President Clinton last week vowed to again seek fast-track authority to negotiate new international trade pacts -- including one that could bring in more produce from Chile -- asserting these are vital to assure the United States' continued economic growth.
"Today, record higher exports account for fully one-third of our economic growth [and] I want to keep them going, because that's the way to keep America growing," Clinton said during last week's State of the Union address.
The president acknowledged many lawmakers' anxieties that international trade agreements lead to a loss of American jobs and increased imports from nations that have few, if any, laws protecting their workers' rights and prohibiting the use of child labor. In the face of these concerns, Clinton last fall withdrew his request for fast-track authority, rather than face defeat in Congress.
This authority permits the president to engage in foreign trade negotiations and send the resulting agreement to Congress for a straight up or down vote. No amendments are permitted during its deliberations. Foreign governments are reluctant to engage in trade negotiations with the United States without fast-track, lest Congress festoon the implementing legislation with special-interest amendments these nations fear will harm them.
Congress has accorded fast-track authority to presidents since 1974. Fast-track authority lapsed at the end of 1995 and Clinton did not seek its renewal until late last year, hoping that protectionist sentiments that arose during the bruising battles to ratify the North American Free Trade Agreement and the World Trade Organization charters would subside.
The White House has made clear that with renewed fast-track authority, the administration would launch talks with Chile to bring it into the NAFTA.