- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 5, 2001

Tomorrow, lawmakers will reveal just how seriously they value America's global leadership in our post-September 11 world. When the House votes on President Bush's request for Trade Promotion Authority, it will help determine what kind of relationships America will be able to form with countries around the world during this critical juncture for U.S. national security.
At the trade summit in Qatar last month, the Bush administration clearly demonstrated how much it values not only its commercial interactions with other nations, but also the principles of free trade. Now it is time for Congress to follow the administration's lead and grant Mr. Bush the trade authority he has requested, which would preserve the right of Congress to approve or reject trade agreements, but prevent legislators from making changes in trade pacts that have already been negotiated.
While there have been many bills and measures promoted with frenzied, and sometimes disingenuous, flag-waving since September 11, Trade Promotion Authority is particularly critical today, as America reaches out for international solidarity against terror and seeks to consolidate closer ties with other countries through freer trade. In Qatar, the Bush administration proved its commitment to opening U.S. borders to the goods that smaller and poorer countries have a comparable advantage in producing. And the European Union, meanwhile, pledged to begin dismantling the export subsidies that make it difficult for agricultural producers around the world to compete in the European marketplace. These breakthroughs will even the playing field in commerce, bolster opportunities for development in emerging economies and give U.S. consumers access to lower-priced goods.
In order to ensure that congressional priorities and concerns are integrated into trade talks and a final agreement, Rep. Bill Thomas, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, and some key Democrats have crafted a bill that envisions close consultations between lawmakers and the White House while trade negotiations are held. This "enhanced congressional consultation" is "far more meaningful than anything" that was included in previous trade promotion bills, said Rep. John Tanner, who participated, along with Mr. Thomas and other Democratic congressmen, in a conference call to promote the trade bill.
And in terms of labor and environmental provisions, the Thomas bill strikes a careful balance, requiring countries to enforce their own laws and, in some cases, helping them bolster their enforcement capability, but not obligating our trading partners to implement a litany of new regulations.
Free trade is always in America's long-term interests. But it does present some workers and industries with difficult challenges in the shorter term, as competition becomes more intense. For this reason, an important parallel bill to Mr. Thomas' trade legislation was introduced by Rep. Nancy Johnson, chairman of the House Ways and Means health subcommittee, which extends unemployment and training benefits to workers displaced by trade.
Granting Mr. Bush trade authority will allow the president to secure a better economic future for America and the world. This prosperity will act as a crucial foundation of stability in a time of peril.

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