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Senate Bill Calls For Major Changes In Trade Policy

James A. Morrissey, Washington Correspondent

Five Democratic senators and one Independent are supporting legislation calling for sweeping changes in US trade policy, similar to legislation that has been introduced in the House with 127 co-sponsors.

The Senate bill, entitled the Trade Reform, Accountability, Development and Employment (TRADE) Act, mandates a review of existing trade agreements and provides for more Congressional involvement in future trade agreements as they are being negotiated, and it establishes guidelines to ensure that all agreements are effectively implemented.

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the Independent sponsor of the bill, said: "As a result of our disastrous trade policy, millions of decent jobs have been shipped overseas, turning American jobs into our number one export. We need to do everything possible to reverse this trend and develop a new trade policy that reduces our record-breaking trade deficit and increase American jobs."

Other sponsors of the bill are Sens., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Bob Casey, D-Pa., Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., Russ Feingold, D-Wis., and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.

Like the House version of trade reform legislation, the Senate bill directs the US Government Accountability Office to conduct a comprehensive review of existing trade agreements with an emphasis on economic results, enforcement and compliance. It also spells out standards for labor and environmental protection, safety standards and national security considerations. Another key provision calls for the President to submit a negotiating plan to Congress prior to entering into negotiations and provides for more congressional oversight with respect to implementation of agreements.

December 15, 2009