Trade policy (U.S.)

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Recent developments

Deal between congressional Democratic leaders and President Bush

On May 11, President Bush and several congressional Democratic leaders reached a deal on several outstanding trade issues after months of negotiations. The deal included Democratic support for the pending Peru - U.S. Free Trade Agreement and U.S. - Panama Free Trade Agreement. The deal did not guarantee support for the pending Korea - U.S. Free Trade Agreement or U.S. - Colombia Free Trade Agreement, though at the announcement Bush said he hoped it would lead to approval of all four. Congressional approval would be pending the agreement of each of the countries to the changes mandated by the agreement.[1]

Democrats in on the deal included House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.) and Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.).[2]

The details of the deal included:

  • Making seven multilateral trade agreements enforceable under bilateral trade agreements.
  • A binding commitment of the United States and its four free-trade partners to comply with five International Labor Organization standards, including the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively and child labor regulations.
  • Provisions to prevent drug patents from effectively denying poor people from accessing them.
  • And provisions on government procurement, port security and intellectual property.[3]

The deal was silent on whether the Democrats would support the renewal of trade promotion authority ("fast track"), which expired at the end of June. Trade promotion authority, among other things, prevents Congress from amending trade deals the administration has negotiated and requires an up-or-down vote. The authority was granted in 2002 after a deal was struck between about two dozen Democrats and House Republicans and was instrumental in engineering narrow Congressional approval of several free-trade agreements.[4]

In a joint statement released with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), and Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) on June 29, 2007, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) indicated that the Peru and Panama Free Trade Agreements would not be taken up by the House for consideration until after the summer, contrary to the urging of the President and business groups. The congressional leaders stated that Peru and Panama would have to change their domestic laws to comply with the May 10 trade agreement between President Bush and Congress. It was also revealed that Chairman Rangel would lead a congressional delegation to Peru in August to address the issue. The statement also said that there was no intention of renewing the president's "fast track" Trade Promotion Authority, which was set to expire on a week later. Rep. Levin stated that "taking a look at a new fast track requires a new president." Regarding pending trade deals with Korea and Columbia, the statement also said there were many obstacles, including addressing violence in Columbia and the removal of barriers to U.S. auto exports to Korea.[5]

House Committee Approves Trade Adjustment Assistance Overhaul

On October 24, 2007, the House Ways and Means Committee approved an update for the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, which provides aid to workers who loses their job to oversees markets. The overhauled program, which was initiated in 1962, would provide expand benefits coverage from manufacturing to the service industry. Rangel said TAA was part of a comprehensive trade policy platform designed to reflect the global economy.

A Republican version of the bill did not makes its way out of committee. GOP lawmakers said the Democrats' legislation is inefficient and too costly.[6]

House passed trade adjustment assistant overhaul

On October 31, 2007, the House passed The Trade and Globalization Assistance Act of 2007. With a 264-157 vote, only 38 Republicans joined 226 Democrats in supporting the measure, not enough to overcome a White House veto threat.[7]

The White House budget office, which said President Bush’s senior advisors would advise him to veto the bill in its current form, said the administration supports extending and improving federal trade adjustment assistance. The budget office said, however, the Democratic bill converts it such assistance “from a trade-related program to a universal income-support and training program.” The White House Council of Economic Advisors estimated that less than 3 percent of longer-term job losses are due to trade. Democrats argued U.S. policy had not kept pace with new threats workers face from globalization.[8]

At the time the legislation passed the House, the Trade Adjustment Assistance program cost $900 million per year. The expansion would add $6.2 billion over ten years which would be paid with extending an unemployment surtax and delaying 2004-approved business tax cuts until 2012. [9]

"Fast track" authority

Pending free trade agreements

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch resources


  1. Doug Palmer, "Democrats, Bush strike deal on trade," Reuters, May 11, 2007.
  2. Doug Palmer, "Democrats, Bush strike deal on trade," Reuters, May 11, 2007.
  3. Doug Palmer, "Democrats, Bush strike deal on trade," Reuters, May 11, 2007.
  4. Doug Palmer, "Democrats, Bush strike deal on trade," Reuters, May 11, 2007.
  5. Ian Swanson, "Pelosi indicates delays on Bush-backed trade deals," The Hill, June 29, 2007.
  6. Ian Swanson, "Eyeing Peru FTA, House panel OKs trade assistance program," The Hill, October 25, 2007.
  7. Doug Palmer, "House OKs bigger trade job-loss aid program," Reuters, October 31, 2007.
  8. Doug Palmer, "House OKs bigger trade job-loss aid program," Reuters, October 31, 2007.
  9. Doug Palmer, "House OKs bigger trade job-loss aid program," Reuters, October 31, 2007.

External articles

External resources