SOUTHERN GOP SENATORS HOLD FATE OF TPA PASSAGE

Byline: Joanna Ramey

WASHINGTON — GOP lawmakers from textile and apparel-producing states could well make the difference between success and failure in today’s scheduled vote on whether to grant President Bush trade promotion authority.
Republicans are convinced that enough of the estimated two dozen undecided lawmakers, otherwise supportive of lowering international trade barriers, will end up backing President Bush, who has made expanding trade a centerpiece of his agenda.
Bush maintains that without TPA, which prohibits Congress from amending agreements negotiated with trading partners, the U.S. won’t have any leverage in the new round of World Trade Organization talks that start in January and that Free Trade Area of the America negotiations will stall. TPA expired seven years ago.
“The ability to conduct commerce free of foreign and domestic trade barriers is absolutely essential to the health and growth of the nation’s retail industry and to the jobs of over 22 million Americans employed in retail,” National Retail Federation president and ceo Tracy Mullin wrote lawmakers this week, urging a yes vote on TPA.
Mullin reminded lawmakers that the “NRF will score this vote as a key vote,” a measure used to weigh support of retail issues and figures into industry decisions about campaign contributions.
The opposition, led by organized labor and including human rights and environmental groups, is equally adamant. Before today’s vote, Patricia Campos, the Washington lobbyist for UNITE, will be calling on three undecided members from textile and apparel-producing North Carolina — Reps. Robin Hayes (R), Bob Etheridge (D) and David Price (D).
Campos will be joined by three recently unemployed UNITE workers from the state, underscoring her point that TPA legislation should require labor standards be negotiated into trade agreements to ensure fair competition.
Members of the House Textile Caucus have been the target of TPA lobbying because it has several undecided members. Most fence-sitters are Republican who, like their Democratic colleagues from the South, have seen the rapid decline of apparel and textile manufacturing as imports have increased.

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