If Congress does not renew President Bush's fast-track trade authority, it will deal a blow to the chances of renewing the Doha round of World Trade Organization talks, according to Susan Schwab, the U.S. Trade Representative.
Bush's fast-track trade authority, which requires Congress to decide within 90 days whether to approve or reject any administration trade agreements without making amendments, is set to expire June 30. Business leaders are asking for at least a one-year extension for the President, and Schwab would like an extension through the end of Bush's presidency in early 2009.
Schwab says the administration is engaging in "quiet conversation" with Democrats in Congress in order to try to convince them to extend the authority.
Democrats are asking for stronger language on labor issues, fearing that free trade agreements would expose U.S. companies to unfair competition from countries with weak workers' rights and poor environmental standards.
"The Democrats want core labor standards in the agreement and a more robust consultation process" with the administration, Frank Vargo, vice president for international affairs at the National Association of Manufacturers, says in an Associated Press article. "I am optimistic."