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Fast-Track Authority

Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV

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Mr. President, I feel very strongly that we should give the President fast-track authority before we adjourn. He needs fast-track authority. We are not saying what is going to be in the trade bill that comes after the fast-track authority.

It is extremely important to remember that fast-track authority is something every President has had since 1974. There is absolutely nothing new in it. The idea that we would withhold from the President fast-track authority on the notion that only the Congress can negotiate trade agreements--Lord help us when it comes to the point where the Congress has to negotiate trade agreements. There are some trade agreements where we can put our imprimatur on that trade agreement, for example: NAFTA, which I voted against; GATT, which I voted for; Chile, which would be upcoming; or others.

But let's understand that in virtually all cases the President could go ahead and negotiate, his people at the U.S. Trade Representative's office could go ahead and negotiate trade agreements, and what the Congress thinks or does not think does not really apply. We would, obviously, watch that, and in the Finance Committee we watch trade very closely.

The whole notion of withholding from the President of the United States, in a highly visible action, withholding fast-track authority from the President of the United States, doing that in the Senate or in the House or both, is absolutely unthinkable in terms of good judgment, as far as I'm concerned.

I can tell you in my own State of West Virginia which is not exactly located on either the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean, that trade and exports are a tremendous part of our economy. We have tens of thousands of people who are working exclusively because of international trade. We need to be increasing that. We need to be opening up new markets not only as the State of West Virginia but also as a nation. There are about 11.5 million jobs in this country right now which are exclusively related to international trade. We ought to be pursuing that.

One of the people that I work with was talking with somebody from the U.S. Trade Representative's office the other day and that person had just come back from a certain part of the world--I think, South America--and said that other countries are going ahead and making agreements and cutting deals on trade and that they are bypassing the United States because we are withholding fast-track authority. It is expired. It doesn't exist. We have to reauthorize it. We need to reauthorize it.

Somehow, also, the idea that the United States exists all by ourselves in this world doesn't make sense anymore, much less the U.S. Senate being able to sit and determine what will happen in the world. I think the history of the last week and what has happened with the stock markets has shown that transactions are international, they are instantaneous, they are electronic, they depend enormously upon each country taking the maximum advantage of the comparative advantage which it has in terms of goods which it produces. The United States has an enormous comparative advantage. Not to take full advantage of that doesn't make any sense to me.

Actually, it might interest some people to know that West Virginia, which is not thought of as an internationally related State, in fact, is. In terms of the proportion of the jobs in our State which are related to products which are exported internationally, only three or, maximum, four other States export more of what they produce proportionately than does the State of West Virginia. So here is a State in the middle of the Appalachian mountains--not just because of coal, not just because of steel, but because of many things--we are highly dependent on the international trade environment.

Mr. President, I remember several years ago when fast track was still in existence. We had two votes. One was on something called NAFTA; the other was on something called GATT. We could have done neither of those unless we had first made sure that the President had fast-track authority, which he did. I happen to think NAFTA was a bad deal for the State of West Virginia and I think I have been proved correct. I would definitely vote again as I did then, which was to vote negatively.

On the other hand, GATT was tremendously important to the State of West Virginia. As somebody who is interested in trade, I went to Geneva to work with some of the international trade folks where the GATT, the General Agreement on Tariff and Trade, was being negotiated. I worked on antidumping. That is central to West Virginia's steel industry. I worked on countervailing duties. That is central to America's trading interests. Also, circumvention. Most people don't know what circumvention is. Here is a good example. Sony television used to make all of its television sets in Japan, and then export them to Mexico with everything done but the front piece glass--not the tube that actually radiates the pictures but the front piece of glass. That would be added on in Mexico and then would be exported into the United States from Mexico, counting as a Mexican import. That is circumvention for the purposes of trade law. In the GATT we were able to stop that. So Sony had to build a plant in America, hiring 1,000 American workers, to do what they had previously done in an entirely different fashion.

Trade law is important. Section 337 has everything to do with intellectual property protection. It is the future of our information technology that is at stake. So we could not even have negotiated the GATT agreement without fast track. I'm saying that the President of the United States and his team of negotiators ought to have the right to negotiate a critical trade agreement as they choose, but then we would have the right to either approve it or disapprove it according to how we felt. I think that is a perfectly reasonable relationship.

The Congress, in a sense, we up or down the trade agreement, but we don't down the process through which the administration can get into the trade agreement. We don't simply say, ``fast track you are not going to have,'' so you can't begin to negotiate a trade agreement.

I think that is totally counter to the purposes of international trade and frankly to the interests of my own State. So I hope that in the Senate and these coming days as we debate this issue that we would give the President of the United States the fast-track authority which President Reagan had, which President Ford had, which President Carter had, which President Bush had, and which President Bill Clinton ought to be able to have.

I yield the floor and I suggest the absence of a quorum.

The clerk will call the roll.

The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.

Sen. William V. Roth

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Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.

Without objection, it is so ordered.