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With democrats in control of the Senate, some in the advocacy business expect the drive toward “fast-track” trade promotion authority to slow down. The White House supports fast- track, or trade promotion authority, which allows the president to enter into trade agreements without permitting Congress to make changes — they can vote only yes or no. To be approved, trade promotion authority must get past the Senate Finance Committee, which oversees trade issues. “It makes a tough situation [getting fast-track] even tougher,” says John Endean, vice president of the American Business Conference. Otherwise, Endean says of the Senate leadership shift: “It’s a one-vote switch. It isn’t going to make a heck of a lot of difference except in trade policy.” The new committee chairman, Senator Max Baucus, D-Montana, has said that he would encourage congressional approval by year’s end. But he also warned that it could be delayed. Many in the environmental and labor communities see an ally in Baucus — more so than in his predecessor, Charles Grassley, R-Iowa. “The Senate is inclined to vote for trade agreements anyway,” says Daniel Seligman, who focuses on trade for the Sierra Club. “So the basic votes and their allocation haven’t shifted at all. What has shifted is that the finance committee chairman has elevated the level of discussion about the environment and labor in trade agreements.” The Sierra Club and other groups say they want to ensure that any deals made under fast-track would carry provisions protecting individual countries’ environmental and labor laws and, to some extent, requiring trading partners to comply with some U.S. regulations. But the Wexler Group’s R.D. Folsom, a trade lobbyist, is optimistic that trade promotion authority will be won. It has the support of a number of his clients, including the Australian American Free Trade Agreement Coalition. “I’ve been doing this for 20 years, and a lot of people said we couldn’t get PNTR [permanent normal trade relations with China] last year during an election year,” Folsom says. While green and labor groups are jumping at the chance to get their views heard on fast-track, the business community has been gearing up with efforts of its own — even as many of its members downplay the impact of the Senate leadership change. A new coalition, dubbed U.S. Trade, officially got off the ground in June. Its goal: to push for trade promotion authority through a lobbying and public relations campaign. The group’s three co-chairs are William Lane, Washington director of governmental affairs at Caterpillar Inc.; Ted Austell, vice president for international policy at The Boeing Company; and Scott Miller, director of national government relations at The Procter & Gamble Company. U.S. Trade includes Old and New Economy businesses as well as the Business Roundtable, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the United States Council for International Business, the National Retail Federation, and the Emergency Committee for American Trade. Trade won’t be the only area where labor and green groups, core constituencies of the Democratic Party, are expected to wield more clout because of the Senate change. With Democrat Edward Kennedy chairing the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, labor’s agenda is likely to get a more sympathetic ear as well. This article first appeared in Influence, an American Lawyer Media publication about the business of lobbying.

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