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US Officials Urge Renewal of President's 'Fast-Track' Trade Negotiation Powers


The top U.S. trade official and the secretary of state have called on Congress to renew what is known as the president's "fast-track" negotiating power before it expires Saturday.

But House Democratic leaders have made clear that renewing Mr. Bush's authority to negotiate trade agreements is not on their list of legislative priorities. In a statement, Democratic leaders including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said before that debate can even begin, the benefits of globalization must be extended to all Americans.

U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab said Friday the negotiating authority keeps the United States competitive with other nations. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the power is an important tool in advancing U.S. foreign policy.

Fast-track authority gives the president power to negotiate trade deals that Congress must either approve or reject, without making any changes.

As the expiration date looms, the Bush administration has been pushing to finish free-trade negotiations with four countries: Colombia, Panama, Peru, and South Korea. The negotiations must be finished before the expiration date passes. Congress may approve or reject the agreements later.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.