By Erik Wasson
Kerry dismisses Reid on fast-track trade bill
Secretary of State John Kerry dismissed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-Nev.) recent opposition to granting President Obama enhanced trade powers, predicting the Senate will pass a fast-track trade bill.
On Saturday, Kerry told the Munich Security Conference in Germany that Reid's words don't mean the bill is stymied.
“Well, I don’t – look, I respect Harry Reid. I’ve worked with him for a long time, obviously,” Kerry said. “And I think all of us have learned to interpret a comment on one day in the United States Senate as not necessarily what might be the situation in a matter of months or in some period of time.”
Reid told reporters Wednesday that “everyone would be well advised just to not push this right now” and that he is “against” fast-track, a day after Obama called for the expanded powers in his State of the Union address.
Obama is trying to complete a TransPacific Partnership agreement with Asian, North and South American countries as well as a TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) deal with the European Union.
Fast-track authority would give him the ability to negotiate and sign trade agreements that would then be guaranteed speedy votes in Congress without amendment.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) has released a draft fast-track bill negotiated with Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.)
The bill would make fast-track status conditional on a trade agreement meeting certain policy and process criteria. Baucus is likely to leave the Senate shortly to become the next ambassador to China.
The bill is viewed skeptically by labor unions that Reid is counting on to help him keep the Senate in the November election.
Kerry's remarks can be seen as reassuring EU representatives that they should not put the brakes on T-TOP because of what Reid said. He hints that the political winds could change.
“Let’s get T-TIP done, put it in its context, then we wage the fight. And I’m not at all convinced that what we’ve heard is going to – I just think that there’s a lot of room here still, so I wouldn’t let it deter us one iota, not one iota,” Kerry said. “I’ve heard plenty of statements in the Senate on one day that are categorical, and we’ve wound up finding accommodation and a way to find our way forward. So this should not be a deterrent, and I hope nobody will let it stand in the way.”
Kerry was joined by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who also said the Senate should move forward.
“I would hope that this would get done by the United States Senate. It’s clearly in everyone’s interest,” Hagel said.