SAMET PAGE 2

SAMET PAGE 2

Trading Opinions: Time to redo the Jordan FTA Some Republicans, meanwhile, went on record opposed to the labor provisions in the Jordan FTA. And with a change in the Administration, all eyes turned to President Bush and Ambassador Zoellick to see what they would do. Jordan was caught in the middle.

The early signs were not hopeful. Talk of dropping or renegotiating the labor and environment provisions was heard. The idea of packaging Jordan with other more controversial trade proposals to pressure the Democrats in Congress was floated.Not surprisingly, Democrats dug in their heels. The Ways and Means Committee Democrats wrote the President urging rapid consideration of the Jordan FTA, and opposing any package proposal. Senator Baucus and Finance Committee Democrats said likewise.

King Abdullah of Jordan is scheduled to begin a visit to Washington this week to meet with Congressional leaders and then President Bush. No doubt getting the Middle East peace process back on track, and Iraq, will be high on the agenda. It is also certain that the King will urge President Bush to move the Jordan FTA forward, and not to have his country held hostage to the broader trade debate in Washington.

President Bush will want to oblige. The question is how?

Last week, Congressman Levin and Senator Baucus introduced bills to move the Jordan FTA forward as is. The Administration, meanwhile, continues to flag concerns about the labor and environment provisions in the agreement, looking for a way to spell out in a side understanding that neither party would use trade measures to enforce these provisions, perhaps specifying the use of monetary fines instead.

This seems an extraordinary effort by the Administration to avoid the theoretical and possible use of trade measures to enforce labor obligations under the FTA, since it is hard to imagine many (indeed any) labor disputes with Jordan going that far. The President met this week members of Congress to discuss the matter. Whatever results come from this meeting, three things seem clear:

First, the outcome should attract broad bi-partisan support.

Second, if consensus can't be achieved with Jordan, it is hard to think how it will be done for other trade proposals.

Third, the Jordan FTA may well be decisive on whether the broader Bush trade agenda ever gets on track, let alone the 'fast track.'

Andrew James Samet , of the law firm Sandler, Travis and Rosenberg, served in the Clinton Administration from 1993-2001, and is a former Deputy Under Secretary of Labor for International Affairs and U.S. representative to the International Labor Organization.