U.S. President George Bush says he is confident that Congress will agree on a robust plan to bailout America's troubled financial sector. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, there is strong opposition to the president's $700 billion rescue plan among lawmakers.
President Bush met with other leaders from the Western Hemisphere to talk about free trade on the sidelines of the opening of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
But it was America's own financial turmoil that dominated the session. Mr. Bush said he knows leaders want to hear about the rescue plan he has submitted to Congress.
"They can see our legislative process is full of give-and-take, that there is ample debate. But I am confident that when it's all said and done, there will be a robust plan. And there needs to be," Mr. Bush said.
The president wants Congress to allow the government to buy as much as $700 billion worth of devalued assets from troubled financial firms. The bad investments have made banks reluctant to lend money, and the lack of credit threatens to stall the U.S. economy.
The president's top economic advisers urged members of the Senate Banking Committee to quickly approve the rescue package. But the Democratic chairman o the committee called the plan "unacceptable" in its current form. The committee's top Republican said it must be closely examined to ensure that it does not waste taxpayers' money.
President Bush canceled plans to attend a political fundraiser in Florida Wednesday and will instead return to the White House after his meetings in New York.
Mr. Bush met with the leaders of 11 countries that have a free trade agreement with the United States or have one pending before Congress.
"These agreements are mutually beneficial. And most importantly, they help small business owners and workers and farmers and ranchers," Mr. Bush said.
Mr. Bush and the leaders of Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, and Peru agreed on a new plan to continue the economic benefits of free trade.
"This initiative will provide a forum where leaders can work to ensure that the benefits of trade are broadly shared. It will deepen the connections among regional markets. It will expand our cooperation on development issues," Mr. Bush said.
In the nearly 15 years since the North American Free Trade Agreement came into force, President Bush says trade between the United States, Canada and Mexico has increased by a combined total of more than 200 percent.
Mr. Bush again called on Congress to approve free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea.