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As APEC Opens, Zoellick Pushes U.S. Trade Plan

WASHINGTON — U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick will try to use the momentum from the Senate’s passage of presidential trade promotion authority last week to advance the Bush administration’s trade agenda at the Asia-Pacific...

WASHINGTON — U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick will try to use the momentum from the Senate’s passage of presidential trade promotion authority last week to advance the Bush administration’s trade agenda at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting opening today in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

“I look forward to meeting with my fellow ministers and discussing how to expand the benefits of trade throughout our countries,” said Zoellick in a statement.

However, the top U.S. trade official will likely face more criticism on the administration’s move to slap punitive tariffs on steel imports, which is close to sparking a trade war with the European Union, as well as on the new farm bill, which heavily subsidizes American farmers.The EU is preparing to impose sanctions on the U.S. as early as June 18 in retaliation for tariffs the U.S. placed on steel and has submitted a $364 million product list to the World Trade Organization that includes several apparel categories.

During the APEC meeting, Zoellick will meet separately with some of the 21 APEC members, which include Chile, China, Korea, Mexico, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. Zoellick noted this will be the first APEC meeting since China and Taiwan joined the WTO in December.“The Senate’s passage of trade promotion authority and its renewal of the Andean Trade Preference Act and the Generalized System of Preferences last week provides momentum for American economic leadership,” Zoellick said.The Senate approved the measure — a cornerstone of the administration’s trade agenda — that drops duties on apparel from Andean countries and renews TPA, formerly called “fast track,” which allows Congress to vote for or against trade legislation but prohibits amendments.The bill now goes before House-Senate negotiators, who will try to reach a compromise on major differences in versions passed by each chamber. The outcome of the House-Senate negotiations will determine the course of the administration’s trade agenda.

Negotiations on a trade pact with Singapore and Chile have basically been put on hold pending an outcome of the passage of TPA. The U.S. is also involved in the WTO global trade talks begun in Doha, Qatar, last November, as well as talks on a Free Trade Area of the Americas pact, which encompasses 34 Western Hemisphere countries