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Debra Davis
(334) 613-4686

The Senate's approval late last week of trade promotion authority on a vote of 66-30 has brought praise from the Bush administration and agricultural groups. The legislation is designed to give the executive branch a better chance to conclude international trade deals to which other nations will subscribe and that Congress can't change.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick called for a quick conference committee action on a final bill that would reflect House and Senate agreement and provide TPA to the administration. "TPA will provide the administration with the tools to pry open markets and negotiate the best deals for our workers, farmers, and consumers," he said. "The President needs TPA to continue promoting trade liberalization: with the ongoing Doha global trade negotiations; in the Free Trade Area of the Americas negotiations; with Free Trade Agreements pending with Chile and Singapore; and with potential FTA negotiations with Central America, Morocco, and others."

Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) emphasized that world trade and U.S. leadership mean more opportunities for developing and poor nations. "World trade creates economic ties and, in turn, economic and political stability. World trade also can lift poor nations from poverty. It leads to a more peaceful and prosperous world," Grassley said.

Senators debated the comprehensive trade bill for 18 days. The final package includes trade promotion authority, trade adjustment assistance and the Andean Trade Preferences Act. Formerly known as fast-track, trade promotion authority would allow the President to negotiate trade agreements with expedited procedures for implementing legislation. Under this authority, Congress agrees to consider legislation to implement the trade agreements under a procedure with mandatory deadlines, no amendments and limited debate.

The President is required to consult with congressional committees during negotiation and notify Congress before entering into an agreement. The President was granted this authority almost continuously from 1974 to 1994, but the authority lapsed and has not been renewed. The House approved its version of trade promotion authority last December. The Senate version is similar, but adds key provisions on anti-dumping laws, labor rights and congressional consultation.

Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman said the trade talks launched in Doha last November "offer tremendous potential benefits to America's farmers and ranchers by expanding access to rapidly growing foreign markets. (TPA) will strengthen the U.S. leadership role in ongoing negotiations and help us obtain our ambitious objectives."

TPA "sends the signal to our trading partners that the United States is ready to assume a leadership role in these negotiations and has the backing of Congress to actively engage in the process," said American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman. "Senate passage was critical to the interests of U.S. agriculture."

National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) President Tim Hume said , "Corn growers recognize the importance of trade, whether you are a corn farmer in Illinois along the Mississippi River, a corn farmer in South Dakota or a farmer in Colorado, we all feel the impacts of increased export opportunities. Strong demand for corn in international markets impacts our domestic prices and supply."

Wheat industry officials said granting TPA to the administration ""sends a strong signal to our trading partners that the U.S. is committed to maintaining its leadership role in promoting free and fair trade around the world and enhance our ability to resolve on going trade problems.""

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