President Bush has signed legislation into law that expands his power to negotiate international trade deals. He will be able to send agreements to congress for a quick yes-or-no vote, secure in the knowledge they will not be changed by the legislature.
The president campaigned hard for congressional passage of the trade bill. He says it's "a victory for the American economy."
"Trade is an important source of good jobs for our workers and a source of higher growth for our economy," President Bush said. "Trade is an important source of earnings for our farmers and for our factories."
Congress first gave the White House enhanced trade negotiating authority in the mid-1970s. It lapsed in 1994 under former President Bill Clinton, blocked by lawmakers, worried about labor and environmental standards. President Bush made restoration of the so-called "fast track" provision a top legislative priority, saying without it other countries were reluctant to negotiate with the United States.
"With each passing day, America has lost trading opportunities and the jobs and earnings that go with them," he said. "Starting now, America is back at the bargaining table in full force."
The president vowed to use this new authority wisely and well. He said he would move quickly to send trade deals to congress, making specific mention of agreements with Chile, Singapore and Morocco. And he promised to use his new trade powers to help spur economic reforms around the world.
"America is committed to building a world that trades in freedom and grows in prosperity and liberty. Today, we have the tools to pursue that vision," he said.
Members of the diplomatic corps in Washington joined administration officials and members of Congress at the signing ceremony. The president pointed out the presence of ambassadors from several Andean countries and noted that the trade bill deals with more than trade negotiating powers. It also renews a program of low tariffs for selected products from Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia that expired last December.
"By providing trade preference for products from four Andean democracies, we will build prosperity, reduce poverty, strengthen democracy, and fight illegal drugs with expanding economic opportunity," President Bush said.
After the signing ceremony, the president left the White House for an extended stay at his Texas ranch. He will remain there until early September, interrupting his working vacation from time to time to make speeches around the country, attend an economic conference in the nearby city of Waco, and host talks with Mexican President Vicente Fox.