Senate OKs ‘fast track’ for trade negotiations


WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate approved legislation by a 66-to-30 vote that gives the president new authority to negotiate trade agreements.

Often called “fast track,” trade promotion authority grants the president the authority to negotiate trade agreements with approval, but not amendments, by Congress.

The previous authority expired in 1994.

The House passed H.R. 3005, approving trade promotion authority, last December.

“This is extremely good news for American agriculture,” said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman. “It is an important step in restoring the president’s authority to negotiate and enter into trade agreements that will boost U.S. food and agricultural exports.”

During fiscal year 2001, the United States exported $52.7 billion in agricultural goods and imported $39.0 billion, creating an agriculture trade surplus exceeding $13 billion.

The Senate bill contained an amendment co-sponsored by Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, to make it a priority of trade negotiators to expand markets for U.S.-made automobiles and auto parts.

The trade promotion authority legislation also continued provisions to assist workers negatively impacted by foreign trade.

A conference committee must now reconcile the differences between the Senate and House versions before the legislation heads to the White House.

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