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September 28, 1998

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Issue Brief

The Fast Track Issue
Fast Track is necessary for the United States to negotiate international trade and investment agreements. In giving Presidents Nixon, Carter, Reagan, and Bush fast track negotiating authority, previous Congresses recognized that foreign governments will not negotiate with the United States if we do not have fast track.

Fast Track allows the President to negotiate open markets with other governments in good faith. Under fast track, foreign governments know that agreements negotiated by the President will be honored by the U.S., if Congress approves them.

News Clips and Highlights

House defeats fast-track trade bill; President can't single-handedly negotiate deals
September 28, 1998 Finlay Lewis
The House of Representatives yesterday voted down a bill that would have renewed President Clinton's authority to negotiate international trade deals, delivering a crushing defeat to American trade interests. Clearly enraged, Democratic Rep. Robert Matsui of California criticized Republican leaders for bringing the so-called fast-track bill to the floor at this time, knowing that it faced massive and fatal Democratic opposition. "Today's exercise on this legislation soils our national trade policy with the mud of partisan politics," said Matsui, one of his party's leading free traders. "It is rather an attempt to embarrass members of my party." The fast-track bill went down to a resounding defeat, 243 to 180. Only 29 Democrats supported the bill while 170 lined up in opposition, along with the chamber's lone independent, Rep. Bernard Sanders of Vermont. Republicans lined up in support, 151 to 71. The fast-track bill would have reinstated a lapsed 24-year-old law authorizing the president to negotiate international trade deals that could not be amended in Congress. Without the protections offered by such a law, foreign leaders are reluctant to negotiate with the United States.

DEMOCRATS CALL HOUSE DEFEAT OF FAST-TRACK TRADE BILL BID TO HUMILIATE THEM
September 28, 1998 JONATHAN PETERSON
The House on Friday defeated a bill to expand the president's power to negotiate trade deals with other nations, a vote White House officials and Democrats complained was scheduled as an exercise in political embarrassment for them. The GOP's House leadership pushed for the vote on granting the president so-called "fast track" authority despite widespread predictions it was destined to lose. The Republican leaders argued that the bill would help U.S. farmers, who have seen prices for their products plummet as the effects of the Asian economic crisis have broadened. Business groups also strongly back the legislation.

Hill Republicans Affirm Commitment To Fast Track Vote
September 16, 1998 (Lisa Caruso and Pamela Newman-Barnett, Congress Daily)
The issue may have a much lower profile on Capitol Hill than it did last year, but House and Senate Republican leaders remained committed to taking a vote next week on legislation to renew the president's authority to negotiate international trade deals on a fast track basis. Following Tuesday's House Republican leadership meeting, GOP Conference Chairman John Boehner of Ohio said that the leadership intends to go forward with the fast track vote next week. "We're going to do it; No ifs, ands, or buts about it," Boehner said. he predicted the measure will pass, but added the leadership has not yt done a formal vote count. House Majority Whip DeLay said tthat is becuase "we know where the votes are, we know how many needed to switch" to pass fast track legislation.

Lagging Support May Dim Chances For Fast Track Vote
September 15, 1998 (Keith Koffler, Congress Daily)
The House may not vote as scheduled next week granting President Clinton fast track trade negotiating authority because doubts are forming on and off Capitol Hill as to whether there are enough votes for passage, according to knowledgeable sources. Sources say that the business community is holding back key aspects of its contemplated lobbying campaign until prospects for passage brighten. The House G.O.P. leadership will discuss today whether to set a vote despite an apparent decision last week to move forward.

Highlights of LatAm Summit
September 1998 (Associated Press)
Highlights from the 59-point declaration signed Saturday by 14 Latin American nations at the 12th Rio Group summit in Panama City, Panama:

TALKING TRADE
August 31, 1998 (John Bacon, USA TODAY)
Southern governors met with Latin American leaders in Dorado, Puerto Rico, and urged Congress to pass fast-track trade legislation this year or risk seeing the United States miss out on hemispheric trade deals. Fast track allows a president to negotiate trade agreements and then have them put to a yes-or-no vote by Congress without the legislature being able to amend them. Eleven governors attended the Southern Governors' Association meeting with the presidents of the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua -- jokingly referred to by the governors as "the deep, deep South." The United States presently exports $ 151 billion in goods to Latin America annually, or more than 20% of its total. "Fast track is critical to our country's future and any negotiations we have with other countries," Tennessee Gov. Don Sundquist said.

Gingrich: Help for farmers soon
August 1998 (Des Moines Register)
Congress will take steps later this fall to ease farm economic problems, House Speaker Newt Gingrich told an Iowa State Fair audience Friday.

Gingrich, R-Ga., said he expects Congress will approve "fast-track" trade legislation to help sell more farm goods as well as provide more money for the International Monetary Fund so other countries, especially in Asia, can buy more U.S. farm goods.

Fast-track support increases on Hill
August 1998 (The Washington Times)
A decision to give the House Agriculture Committee a greater voice in trade negotiations has boosted the prospects of passing fast-track trade legislation, panel Chairman Bob Smith told reporters yesterday.
The Oregon Republican estimated that at least 14 committee members - and perhaps more - have switched their votes since the House leadership agreed to add a requirement to fast-track legislation that U.S. negotiators consult with agriculture panel members before finishing farm-related trade agreements. Mr. Smith said the converts are mostly Republicans but include "several Democrats." Fast-track supporters also say that dry weather and low farm prices have added urgency to fast track, which could lead to trade agreements that open foreign markets and increase U.S. exports.
"The votes are there for fast track," Mr. Smith said. "I'm very optimistic because we've had some movement."

White House Tells Democrats to Sit Out 'Fast Track' Debate
August 1998 (Roll Call Magazine)
Worried about the political fate of several House Democrats with tough re- election races this fall, President Clinton is lobbying some Congressional Democrats who support "fast track" trade legislation to sit out the debate this Congress, several sources said. Clinton is worried that if enough Democrats defy organized labor and campaign for the bill again this year, Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga) will be provided with enough ammunition to help shoot down several vulnerable Democrats, according to various sources.

Restarting Fast Track
April 1998 (The Institute For International Economics - Edited by Jeffrey J. Schott) - On 3 February 1998, the Institute for International Economics held a conference on fast-track legislation, the proposed renewal of presidential authority to implement trade agreements. This volume includes the papers presented at that conference and highlights key points from the discussion, which included 13 members of Congress.

Ohioans visiting Argentina urged to push 'fast track'
March 5 1998 (The Columbus Dispatch) - BUENOS AIRES, Argentina -- U.S. diplomats asked Ohio businessmen yesterday to use their influence to push Washington toward resolving a "fast-track" free-trade agreement with Argentina and the rest of South America. Though the diplomats said U.S. trade with Argentina is healthy and can proceed without the fast-track agreement, U.S. businesses are at a competitive disadvantage here and could lose ground to European firms.

Placing international trade on 'fast-track'
23 February 1998 (Boston Business Journal) - As things stand today--and will remain unless the president's fast-track authority is not restored--Massachusetts companies have to overcome tariff barriers that hike the cost of their products in Chile 11 percent. Meanwhile competitors, for instance Canada, has already negotiated an end to the Chilean tariffs.

Agriculture Coalition Applauds President for Renewing the Fast-Track Campaign During State of the Union Address
28 January 1998 (PRNewswire) - The AG for Fast-Track Coalition applauds President Clinton for re-energizing the campaign for fast-track and asking Congress to renew his trade negotiating authority during his State of the Union Address. The group will continue its full court press urging Congress to pass fast-track legislation this legislative session.

Clinton Urges IMF Support, Trade Authority
January 28, 1998 (MSNBC) PRESIDENT CLINTON told Congress Tuesday not to back away from trade but to pass stalled fast track trade negotiation legislation. "I will renew my request for the fast track negotiating authority necessary to open more new markets and create more new jobs, which every president has had for two decades," Clinton said in his State of the Union address.

Extend the Benefits Of Free Trade
26 February 1998 (Wall Street Journal) - The most significant obstacle to the U.S. further extending its trading relationships has been the domestic political challenge posed by vocal critics who assert that freer trade destroys jobs. Opponents used that argument in November when they blocked congressional reauthorization of President Clinton's fast-track authority.

Inside the Plot to Derail Your Future
February 1998 (George - Tony Blankley) Democrats and unions teamed up to kill Clinton's bid for fast-track authority. Will their short-term victory prove to be political suicide?

Chile Takes Its Trade Elsewhere
25 December 1997 (The Washington Post) - Tired of waiting for President Clinton to win "fast-track" authority, Chile, the region's most liberalized economy, has gone courting other beaus. U.S. companies say they are the losers; one recent study indicates U.S. firms are missing out on $480 million in business a year without an accord, partly to Canadian and Mexican firms whose governments have already signed free-trade agreements with Chile.

Copyright 1998 Bivings Woodell, Inc