May 24, 2002
Democrats favor trade bill changes, but still would vote it down
By PAUL M. KRAWZAK
Copley Washington correspondent
WASHINGTON — House Democrats launched an effort Thursday to preserve the right of lawmakers to block any portion of a trade
agreement that might weaken U.S. anti-dumping laws.
“The American steel industry relies on anti-dumping laws as a last defense against unfairly traded imports,” said Rep. Sherrod
Brown, D-Lorain, who represents thousands of Steelworkers in his Northeast Ohio district.
The Senate passed a version of the trade bill that includes the anti-dumping provision on Thursday. Brown and several other
Democrats want that provision included in a compromised trade bill that now must be hammered out by a conference committee.
Even if the final trade bill being considered in Congress includes the anti-dumping provision, Brown and those Democrats said they
still would vote against it.
They made their pitch as the Senate debated its version of the trade legislation, which would give President Bush the “fast track”
authority he is seeking. It would enable him to negotiate trade agreements with other nations that the Senate could reject but not
modify. President Clinton used fast track to negotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Anti-dumping laws protect American companies by imposing penalties on unfairly traded imports.
In December, the House passed a different version of the trade bill. Its version does not allow the Senate to kill portions of trade
deals that weaken trade penalties. The bill passed by just one vote.
The group of Democrats opposing the bill sent a letter to House Speaker Dennis Hastert on Thursday. It urges the Illinois Republican to preserve the anti-dumping language in any compromise that emerges from a House-Senate conference committee.
“While the administration has to be the negotiator, Congress has to be assured of a meaningful role” in trade negotiations, said Rep.
Sander Levin, D-Mich.
Rep. Robert Matsui, D-Calif., added that lawmakers have very little leverage on trade agreements negotiated by the president.
“Normally when these trade agreements are given to us we have almost no choice” but to vote for them because of the fear there
will be “international consequences” if Congress rejects an agreement, he said.
Beyond the issue of protecting anti-dumping laws, Brown objects to the trade legislation because it does not provide sufficient health
benefits to displaced American workers, or require “real labor standards, real environmental standards” in foreign countries. He also said he will vote against the bill because it “gives more economic power” to Bush.
In the Senate, Ohio Republicans George Voinovich and Mike DeWine favor the trade bill. However, they opposed giving the Senate
the ability to vote down changes in unfair trade penalties. Voinovich felt that provision “guts” the trade bill, a spokesman said.
When the trade legislation passed the House last year, Rep. Bob Ney, R-St. Clairsville, voted for it. Reps. Ralph Regula,
R-Bethlehem Township, Ted Strickland, D-Lucasville, and Brown voted against it.