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Trading On Tragedy: Congress Pushes Trade Promotion Authority

October 10, 2001

In a piece called "Trading on Tragedy" Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research writes, "Everycrisis and tragedy is an opportunity for some, as any ambulance-chasing lawyer can tell you. We expect the Pentagonto lard its already bloated budget, and Attorney General John Ashcroft to chip away at the Bill of Rights, all in thename of the War Against Terrorism. But "Trade Promotion Authority?" That seems like quite a stretch." Yet that’sexactly what happened.

Trade Promotion Authority (or "fast track") would give the Administration power to negotiate new internationalcommercial agreements, with Congress having only a yes-or-no vote on the final product. First in line is thecontroversial 34-country "Free Trade Area of the Americas." US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick has framed theissue of free trade in terms of national security. Zoellick asks, "Will the Congress strongly support free trade as acornerstone of international leadership?" The answer depends on where congress chooses to look. A recent poll by theUniversity of Maryland showed that 72 percent believe that US officials who make trade policy give too littleconsideration to the concerns of working Americans. Critics say the bill offers watered down language on protectingworkers’ rights and the environment in an attempt to win over the support of Democrats.

Last night, the Trade Promotion Authority bill passed through the House Ways and Means Committee. The chair of thecommittee, Bill Thomas of California, seemed especially interested in jumpstarting Fast Track trade legislation inthe House. The bill, which has been presented as a "bipartisan compromise," will appear on the floor of Congress fora vote next week.

Democracy Now! set up a debate with the Office of the US Trade Representative and Lori Wallach of Public Citizen, buta few moments ago the Office of the Trade Representative cancelled.


  • Lori Wallach, Public Citizen.
  • David Amdur, program director, CISPES (Committee In Solidarity With The People Of El Salvador).

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