- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 9, 2002

Republican majorities in the House and Senate will boost prospects for President Bush's trade agenda, which includes a series of trade agreements around the world, according to administration and Senate officials.
"I think we're better off with a Republican Congress," U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick said Thursday. "At the same time, as we've said all during the past year and a half, we're trying to build broader bipartisan support for trade."
Republicans won a majority in the Senate and maintained a majority in the House during Tuesday's elections.
Senate staff and analysts cautioned that trade issues need bipartisan support 60 senators must approve trade treaties.
"[The majority] helps a little bit. But trade is a bipartisan issue, if we don't have support of the Democrats, we have trouble," said a Republican Senate staffer.
But a majority in both houses will help advance Republican priorities, including trade.
"I think the real difference is in the Republicans' ability to set the agenda," said William Reinsch, president of the National Foreign Trade Council, a Washington trade group. "The majority party controls the agenda and that makes a huge difference. Now the Republicans get to decide what gets done and what goes on the back burner."
Once the administration wraps up agreements and submits them to Congress, the likelihood is greater that there will be prompt hearings and consideration on the floor, he added.
Republican Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa is in line to replace Democratic Sen. Max Baucus of Montana as Finance Committee chairman.
"Both are free traders but there were times when we were a little discouraged with the timing or lack of progress with Sen. Baucus," said Bill Morley, vice president of congressional affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Depending on who fills at least three Republican seats that are open on the committee, trade proponents should be able to set a positive tone for hearings on treaties, Mr. Morley said.
The White House is working on agreements with Chile, Singapore, Morocco, a group of five Central American countries, the five nations of the Southern African Customs Union, and hemisphere-wide talks on a Free Trade Area of the Americas, as well as a new round of World Trade Organization negotiations.
Mr. Zoellick said the election results would boost chances that agreements with Chile and Singapore, the closest to completion, would be approved when submitted to Congress next year. Mr. Zoellick talked with reporters during a conference on African trade.
The president won trade promotion authority in August when Democrats controlled the Senate. The authority allows the administration to negotiate trade agreements and then submit them to Congress for a yes-or-no vote without amendments.
Trade promotion constitutes an important aspect of the Republican economic platform and is part of the national security strategy, the Senate aide said.
"I think we'll have some pretty strong success on the trade agenda," the aide said.
The administration is likely to find bipartisan support, Mr. Morley added.

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