Date Set for Fast Track; Possible Compromise on Labor-Environment Linkage
The Clinton Administration is reportedly targeting September 8 for the unveiling of its fast-track proposal. Administration officials have advised the President to present his proposal that day during a scheduled speech on foreign trade, just after Congress resumes following the summer break. Fast-track negotiating authority would allow the Clinton Administration to negotiate trade agreements, such as the upcoming Free Trade Area of the Americas, without subjecting the agreements to amendment before being voted on by Congress. This kind of authority is deemed critical to the Administration by its trading partners, who will not negotiate agreements subject to change by the Congress.
U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky last week indicated the Administration is considering a compromise solution to trade and labor linkage in its fast-track proposal. The Administration is at odds with the Republican congress over the linkage issue, with the Republicans opposing any linkage between trade and labor or the environment. However, House Ways and Means Committee trade subcommittee chairman Phil Crane (R-Illinois) has reportedly proposed to the Administration that "directly trade-related" environment and labor provisions could be included in a fast-track proposal.
Informed sources say that the "directly trade-related" would most likely only include linkage "directly related to imports and exports and therefore our ability to trade." Linkage would not be allowed to preclude a countries comparative advantage via lower labor costs. Also last week, two Democratic congressmen called for food safety provisions to be included in any new fast-track bill.
"September 8 is 'Fast Track' Day," WASHINGTON TRADE DAILY, August 6, 1997; "Barshefsky hints at solution to fast track labor-environment fight," INSIDE U.S. TRADE, August 8, 1997.