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We Can Win Free Trade Fight

Patriots should pressure their Congressmen to make sure the President’s free trade fixation does not survive past June

There is more hope that the new Democratic-controlled Congress will refuse to renew President Bush’s free trade authority, which expires June 30. Under such authority, the administration can negotiate “free trade agreements” which Congress can vote up or down but not change.

Such authority resulted in NAFTA under President Bill Clinton and CAFTA under Bush.

Capitol Hill staffers say the issue is likely to be determined by voter sentiment. If enough senators and House members hear from voters outraged at the drain on American jobs generated by the “free” trade agreements, the president will lose his authority, they said. Then Congress could alter such agreements, which would have to be approved again by participating nations.

Opposition to such trade authority will be bipartisan—lawmakers from both parties have constituents who have been economically injured by “free trade” and are demanding “fair” trade. Hundreds of thousands of good-paying manufacturing jobs have

left to take advantage of poor countries where wages are low, and they are unburdened by “fringe” benefits such as paid vacations and insurance.

During House hearings Jan. 30, Democrats said they are unlikely to approve pending trade deals with Peru, Panama and Colombia unless the administration agrees to tighten labor and environmental protections in those countries. On the same day, Bush was calling for his trade authority to be extended in a speech to Caterpillar Inc. in East Peoria, Ill. Caterpillar is a major exporter of tractors and other heavy equipment.

“We’ve had a tremendous loss of manufacturing jobs,” said Rep. Sander Levin (DMich,), chairman of a subcommittee on trade. There was much discussion of lost jobs during a Ways and Means hearing the same day.

Democrats expressed much skepticism about Bush’s trade deals.

“The administration’s policy has been far too passive in enforcing trade agreements, in breaking down unfair barriers to U.S. products and in establishing rules that raise the standards of living in the United States and around the globe,” Levin said.

Approving such trade deals “requires a great deal of trust,“ said Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), implying that the Bush administration is not trustworthy.

“Congress must have some key assurances before it is willing to extend this leverage.”

(Issue #7, February 12, 2007)

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Updated February 3, 2007