By  on February 9, 2006

WASHINGTON — Senior House Ways and Means Democrats introduced a bill Wednesday to create a so-called Congressional Trade Enforcer to assist small businesses challenging foreign trade barriers, investigate alleged violations of U.S. trade pacts and make recommendations to the U.S. Trade Representative's office to file cases with the World Trade Organization.

Rep. Charles Rangel (D., N.Y.), the committee's ranking Democrat, said in light of the deepening U.S. trade deficit — trade numbers set for release Friday are expected to show it reached $700 billion in 2005 — Congress "should take another look at the rules and regulations governing trade."

"We're absolutely certain that American workers and exporters have not been protected by our government as it relates to trade regulations," Rangel said at a news conference. "We're also frustrated with USTR for not being even-handed in taking care of the industries that have suffered so badly and are losing jobs."

Rep. Ben Cardin (D., Pa.) said the "Stand Up for America Act" would establish the new position to help small companies and exporters that run up against foreign trade barriers such as high tariffs on their exports, compile and investigate cases and issue recommendations to USTR to file unfair trade cases with the WTO.

He noted that the trade representative's office has indicated companies must prepare their own unfair trade cases, which places an unnecessary burden on small companies. If USTR fails to uphold the trade enforcer's recommendation, Cardin said the legislation would allow Congress to pass a resolution requiring the office to take action.

The bill will face hurdles, however, because Republicans control the House and Senate. Rangel said, "The closer we get to the [midterm] elections, the more support we will see from the majority party."

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