The White House confirmed Monday it will request Congress to renew the key trade negotiating authority that expires next July and said time was running short for countries to reach a new global trade deal.
"We certainly think it is important that Congress renew it," White House spokesman Tony Snow said, referring to fast-track trade legislation, --Trade Ãâ€šÃ‚Â¨Promotion Authority-- that requires lawmakers to vote "yes" or "no" on agreements negotiated by the White House without making any changes. "Every other President has had it. It is the ability to negotiate a good faith trade agreement without their later being changed by Congress, which means you have to go back to the table and kind of renegotiate. It is an important device in extending free trade and also allowing negotiators to operate effectively. President Clinton used it to positive effect during his presidency, as have prior presidents, and we certainly think it is important that Congress renew it", said Snow. The White House's current fast-track trade promotion authority expires on July 1 and President Bush is expected to need an extension to complete the Doha round of world trade talks and possible trade deals with South Korea and other Asian countries. Bush plans to talk about it this week in remarks either in Illinois or New York, Snow said. Many business groups were disappointed when Bush did not call for renewal of fast-track authority in his State of the Union speech last week. The outlook for world trade talks, stalled for the last six months because of disagreements over how far to cut farm subsidies and tariffs, brightened in recent weeks, raising hopes for a possible breakthrough in coming months. "We are in a very important part of negotiations. We have a small window to get a lot of things done. I know all sides are working very hard on this. The president is deeply committed to working with all our allies and they've assured us that they're committed also to working with us" Snow said. During last weekend's talks at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the world's leading trade nations, together with World Trade Organization Director General Pascal Lamy agreed to resume global trade talks Many analysts believe Bush needs a breakthrough in world trade talks to have any chance of persuading the Democratic-controlled Congress to approve an extension of his trade promotion authority. Many Democrats oppose free-trade agreements, while others say they can only support them if the Bush administration includes tougher labour and environmental provisions than it has so far.