By  on September 16, 2005

WASHINGTON — The Senate defeated a controversial amendment Thursday offered by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D., N.D.) aimed at preventing U.S. trade negotiators in the Doha Round of global trade talks from agreeing to change trade laws that allow the U.S. to impose duties against unfairly priced or subsidized imports.

Although the Senate defeated the amendment on a 60-39 vote, many lawmakers signaled their concerns about what the U.S. is offering in the World Trade Organization negotiations aimed at reducing or eliminating tariffs on a range of products. Any such treaty would have to be approved by Congress.

Dorgan attached his amendment to an annual appropriations bill for the State and Commerce Departments and sparked a firestorm on the Senate floor over two days. It essentially would have prohibited the authorization of funds for any trade negotiations that sought to modify or amend U.S. unfair-trade-practices laws.

The Bush administration agreed to place U.S. antidumping and countervailing duty laws on the table in the Doha Round talks at the behest of many countries that oppose the use of the measures in the U.S. and are seeking some regulation of their use.

"We must stand up for the economic interests in this country," Dorgan said on the Senate floor. "The reason this amendment is necessary is it has been widely announced that our negotiators are prepared to lay on the table and weaken basic protections" of existing trade laws, such as antidumping and countervailing duties, "which will move jobs offshore."

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa), strongly opposed Dorgan's amendment and said: "We've got a policy that is broad to make sure things aren't weakened, but if they want to be strengthened they can be strengthened, as well. We've got to have a broad number of issues on the table to get any success for agriculture."

Dorgan's amendment prompted U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman and Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez to send a letter to senators imploring them to oppose it and claiming it would diminish the chances of reaching an agreement.

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