Bush loses power to 'fast-track' trade deals

Sunday, July 1, 2007

George W. Bush with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore

U.S. President George Bush yesterday lost the power to unilaterally approve or 'fast-track' trade deals, bypassing congressional approval. Fast-track authority originated in 1975 during the Ford Administration. President Bush and Bill Clinton are the only presidents to lose this authority.

On Friday, Democratic members of the Ways and Means committee stated that their priorities "do not include the renewal of fast track authority" and complained that Bush had "pushed too many trade deals through at the expense of worker rights and environmental protections" and costing American jobs.

Administration official Susan Schwab urged renewal of this presidential authority warning that the United States could lose the race to exploit new markets without it. The Bush Administration has approved trade deals, without congressional oversight, with Singapore, Chile, Australia, Morocco, Bahrain, Oman, the Dominican Republic, and the Central America Union, since winning approval in 2002.

Democrats have complained that these deals have resulted in the export of American jobs and in American companies moving off-shore to capitalize on tax and trade breaks, along with weaker labor and environmental laws. Republicans stress the market-opening benefits of such trade deals.