Schwab expresses optimism on trade agenda of 110th Congress

A senior Bush administration official yesterday said that, contrary to conventional political wisdom, there are many promising signs that the 110th Congress will advance free-trade policies.

During an address at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab voiced optimism that despite the populist rhetoric of some new House and Senate members, Congress will be able to further pro-trade economic policies.

"There has been a lot said, probably because it makes good copy, that this election will hobble or end the administration's trade agenda," Schwab said. "This is contradicted by the facts - Democrats and Republicans have been working together for over 70 years on trade agreements."

Schwab highlighted statements by Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), who will chair the House Ways and Means Committee, and by Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), who will head the Senate Finance Committee, as proof that they would support trade agreements.

"Bipartisanship on trade should not and cannot be a historical concept," Schwab stated. "It needs to be a driving force for the president in the future. Rangel's and Baucus's comments are a good sign."

She continued, "Extremists in both parties are ready to retreat to protectionism and isolationism, and we must fight against them … we must think of the next generation, not the next election."

Some, however, do not share Schwab's optimism. During his introduction of Schwab, Lt. General Daniel Christman, the senior vice president of international affairs for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, remarked that "The path ahead looks very, very tough."