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A new deal for free trade

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KAI RYSSDAL: The Senate debated the Iraq war funding bill today. There could be a vote on the $122 billion package sometime tomorrow, setting the stage for a promised presidential veto.

Democrats over in the House, meanwhile, turned to trade. They’re trying to force the White House to consider environmental, labor and health issues when the president makes deals. Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel introduced the Democratic plan today that could make it tougher for the administration to gets its trade agenda back on track. Marketplace’s Dan Grech has more now from the Marketplace Americas Desk at WLRN.

DAN GRECH: Democrats have long pushed to include worker protections in U.S. trade deals. Today, they’re adding safeguards against logging and access to low-cost generic drugs to that list.

BRUCE STOKES: These issues have kind of come out of left field, literally.

That’s Bruce Stokes, a columnist with the National Journal. He says by adding these new requirements, Democrats could derail Bush’s trade agenda. That could leave pending deals with Panama, Peru and Colombia dead in the water.

STOKES: This administration has no time left, no political energy left, and no credibility left to actually push through any more of these. So whatever happens now, it merely is teeing things up or not teeing things up for the next administration.

Bush faces a deadline this Saturday on the three Latin American trade deals. He needs to give Congress 90-day notice under fast-track authority, which expires by the end of June.

I’m Dan Grech for Marketplace.

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