- The Washington Times - Friday, November 9, 2001

The effort to give President Bush "fast-track" trade authority stalled yesterday as talks broke down between House Republican and Democratic negotiators.
The development could delay a floor vote in the House on trade-promotion authority until after Thanksgiving, House Republican leadership sources said. Speaker J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois had set a goal of completing House action on the bill next week.
But Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas, California Republican, Republican Rep. Rob Portman of Ohio and the panel's ranking Democrat, Rep. Charles B. Rangel of New York, reported no progress in their talks yesterday.
"They offered us nothing," a House Republican leadership aide said of the Democratic negotiators.
Their differences primarily involve Congress' oversight of trade, plus labor and environmental protections in trade pacts signed by the United States.
Fast-track trade authority would allow the president to make trade deals and submit them to Congress for an up-or-down vote, without amendments. That way, other countries know that Congress cannot dismantle the delicate compromises built into complex agreements.
Mr. Bush hosted about 20 undecided House Democrats at the White House on Wednesday as he sought to gain votes for trade-negotiating authority. None said they would definitely support the bill approved by the Ways and Means Committee.
House Republican leaders have been seeking more Democratic support for the bill because they lack enough Republican votes to approve the measure in the narrowly divided chamber. About two dozen Democrats are believed to support the legislation as written.
Republican Reps. Mark Foley and Adam H. Putnam of Florida circulated a letter earlier this week to other members of the state's delegation expressing concern about the effects of trade-promotion authority on Florida's agriculture industry. And some New York Republicans were waiting to see how much more emergency terrorism-related aid they can get for their state before declaring their support for the trade bill.
Bush administration officials, who are pushing Congress to approve new negotiating authority, have pointed out repeatedly that of the 130 free-trade agreements in the world, the United States is part of only two, NAFTA, and a pact with Israel.
The administration was hoping for an agreement to be reached during a World Trade Organization conference this week in Qatar.


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