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Bush Touts Benefits of Free Trade - 2002-04-05

President Bush wants Senate Democrats to give him broader authority to negotiate overseas trade deals. He is also calling on Congress to pass legislation promoting trade in South America's Andean countries.

When legislators return from their Easter recess next week, President Bush says their first order of business should be passing Trade Promotion Authority to give him the ability to negotiate overseas deals that would then be put to Congress for a simple yes-or-no vote.

Mr. Bush says that authority will allow him to create higher-paying jobs for American workers by expanding overseas markets that, he says, are crucial to helping the economy recover from recession.

"I need that authority," he said. "Every day we go by without that authority is another day we're missing opportunities to help our economy, to help our workers, to help our country, to relate to our friends around the world."

Five of the last six U.S. presidents have had Trade Promotion Authority which helped create the North American Free Trade Agreement and contributed to the founding of the World Trade Organization.

Speaking at the U.S. State Department Thursday, President Bush stressed that without that authority Americans are missing business opportunities overseas. "There are thousands of entrepreneurs in American who benefit from trade," he said. "Trade is not just good for mega-corporate America. Trade is very good for farmers and ranchers."

The president's push for Trade Promotion Authority follows criticism from political supporters that he abandoned his free-trade approach last month by imposing duties on steel imports to protect domestic producers.

President Bush pointed out he has always been committed to free trade as a way to create more jobs at home and more democracy abroad.