WASHINGTON — The logjam over President Clinton’s request for fast-track negotiating authority for free trade agreements broke Wednesday when a key House committee chairman said the measure would get an airing during a hearing next week and that final touches would be put on it Oct. 8.
After a 30-minute meeting Wednesday with U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky, Ways and Means Committee chairman Bill Archer (R., Tx.), agreed to the Sept. 30 hearing and markup a week later.
He also told Barshefsky that currently there aren’t enough votes to pass the request and that the President would have to actively woo Democrats to muster enough votes.
Trade agreements negotiated under fast track cannot be amended by Congress and must be considered under a strict timetable. First on the administration’s agenda is extending the North American Free Trade Agreement to Chile. Clinton also has said he wants to negotiate trade agreements with Latin American and Pacific Rim countries. Retailers are backing it because of the promise of more foreign markets and sourcing opportunities. Opponents of fast track feel the legislation needs to provide for labor and environmental standards and are also concerned about potential U.S. job loss because of free trade.

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