Magazine article Insight on the News

Q: Should Congress Grant Bill Clinton Fast-Track Trade Authority?

Magazine article Insight on the News

Q: Should Congress Grant Bill Clinton Fast-Track Trade Authority?

Article excerpt

Yes: The result will be more economic liberty, lower taxes and a chance to promote U.S. values.

We in the Republican Party frequently talk about leadership, vision and the need to prepare America for the competitive challenges of the 21st century. In the debate about renewal of "fast-track" trade-negotiating authority, we now have an opportunity to demonstrate those qualities.

In September, President Clinton had the political courage to ask a Republican-controlled Congress to renew his fast-track authority, which expired in 1993. Fast-track negotiating authority is not new. Every president since Gerald Ford has had this authority to negotiate trade agreements with other countries. Nor is the liberal, populist rhetoric being used by House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt of Missouri and the AFL-CIO to defeat fast track and place America's economic future in jeopardy anything new.

Fortunately, in seeking this authority from Congress, Clinton has embraced most of the ideals which embody the true spirit of the Republican Party -- less government regulation, more economic liberty, lower taxes, a strong foreign policy and a commitment to promote American values and leadership abroad. These Republican values, which have served America so well in the past, are being called upon by Clinton today to help shape America's economic destiny. By granting fast-track authority, Congress cedes nothing. Instead, it agrees to work with the president to liberalize foreign markets and tear down protectionist trade barriers. Under fast track, any agreement reached with our foreign trading partners is reviewed by Congress within a set time period and is voted up or down by Congress without amendment. This cooperative procedure gives the president much-needed leverage in international negotiations because our trading partners know that any agreement reached will not be torn apart by protectionist special-interest lobbying in Congress. At the same time, our trading partners know they must consider congressional views because Congress retains the exclusive power to repeal fast-track authority at any time and has the ultimate authority to accept or reject the agreement.

Make no mistake: Decisions made about the rules of international trade during the next few years will be crucial to America's continued economic growth, prosperity and international influence. More than 95 percent of the world's consumers live outside of our borders. Many emerging foreign economies will grow at three times the rate of the U.S. economy, a fact that many of our industrialized competitors are well aware of. The debate about fast-track authority comes down to a simple question: Do we want to use our economic and political influence to help shape the rules of trade that will dominate these markets in the 21st century? Or, do we want to sit on the sidelines and watch as other nations define the trading rules of tomorrow?

In the next few years the United States will be called upon to provide the political leadership needed to ensure continued economic liberalization throughout the world. Negotiations in the World Trade Organization on intellectual-property rights are scheduled to begin next year, followed by agriculture negotiations in 1999 and services negotiations in the year 2000. Rules governing the Free Trade Area of the Americas, or FTAA, a $1.5 trillion consumer market, are being dictated by Brazil today because the United States cannot bring its full weight to the negotiating table. Economic liberalization under the auspices of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC, forum continues to stagnate because America can't lead without fast track. And sectors in which America is most competitive, such as computer software, information technology, medical equipment and environmental technology, remain closed to American exports because we bring very little to the table without trade-negotiating authority.

Americans have the most to gain from future trade liberalization. …

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