“We need to see that you care more about the American people, and that you are not just helping American multi-nationals who operate worldwide get good deals,” Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont.—the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee — told Schwab at a Senate Finance Committee hearing Feb. 15. The Senate Finance Committee chairman continuously interrupted Schwab and took every opportunity to scold her and the U.S. trade team whenever she attempted to defend the administration's effort on trade enforcement, discuss how it has worked with Congress on FTAs or explain how FTAs had improved labor conditions in the countries where they have been enacted and benefited U.S. workers.Do you expect fast-track authority to be renewed? If it doesn't, what will it mean to U.S.-based businesses ability to compete globally?
Trade still attracts attention
Mike Verespej, our staff reporter in Washington, has captured a bit of drama with his story on U.S. trade representative Susan Schwab's visit to Congress yesterday. Verespej writes: "If the chilly reception that U.S trade representative Susan Schwab received at hearings in the House and Senate on trade policy is any indication, the battle to get presidential authority to negotiate free trade agreements renewed when it expires June 30 will be a contentious one." The story illustrates the split in the business community over trade, too. The Bush administration and manufacturers (including the plastics industry) officially are behind an effort to renew the fast-track authority under which international free trade agreements are subject to an up-or-down vote, but not amendment, in Congress. But plenty of small manufacturers are joining labor groups in arguing that they have suffered as a result of previous trade deals.
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