Doing their best to defy my earlier predictions, House Democrats and the Bush administration may be nearing a deal to renew trade promotion authority, courtesy of hard work by Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson:
Charles Rangel, chairman of the ways and means committee in the House of Representatives, said the personal involvement of Mr Paulson was instrumental in creating a last-minute opening for a consensus on trade…
His involvement will put pressure on Susan Schwab, the US trade representative, to concede Democrats’ demands…
The reforms are intended to act as a “basic boiler template” for pending and future trade deals and call for “a fair balance between promoting access to medicines and protecting pharmaceutical innovation in developing countries”.
The proposal also includes enforceable international labour standards, enhanced training and assistance for youth and unemployed American workers, and tougher action against China over alleged currency manipulation.
The IHT adds this provocative detail: “Democrats also want to create a new position of U.S. Trade Enforcer.” The Houston Chronicle has more on the labor provision.
The CVDs applied to China today make ominous portents for the fate of fast-track. What would it matter if fast-track passes but so many labor and environmental strings were attached as to alter the intent of free-trade pacts into “environmental” and “labor” code words for protectionism? It’d be a Phyrric victory.