June 05,2003

Baucus and Dooley Launch Investigation of FTA Priorities

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) In a letter dated June 5, 2003, Senator Max Baucus, Ranking Democraton the Senate Finance Committee, and Congressman Cal Dooley (D-Calif.) requested that theGeneral Accounting Office launch an investigation into how the Bush Administration makesdecisions regarding the selection of free trade agreement negotiating partners and the allocationof negotiating resources.

"Since we passed the Bipartisan Trade Promotion Authority Act last year, there has beena significant increase in the number of bilateral and regional FTAs under negotiation and in thenegotiating resources devoted to them," Baucus said. "I have always supported tradeliberalization and I believe that FTAs can offer important opportunities to American farmers,workers, and businesses. But I am increasingly concerned about the lack of an organized andtransparent process for selecting future FTA partners. Our negotiating resources are finite, and Iwant to be sure we are putting them to the best possible use."

“I have always supported liberalizing trade because it opens more markets for Americangoods and services and creates greater opportunities for American businesses and workers,”

Dooley said. “We must have a strategic roadmap, guided by our economic and geopoliticalinterests, to determine which FTAs to pursue. That is why we have requested that GAO take acomprehensive look at the criteria and processes that are currently used in the selection of newFTA partners.”

"Our window of opportunity is closing," Baucus said. "Two or more ongoing FTAnegotiations are scheduled to be completed before the end of this year, and several countries arewaiting in the wings for the launch of new talks. That is why it is so critical that GAO completeits work by the fall."

“This GAO investigation is one part of our larger effort to understand and shape thecriteria that should guide the selection of future FTA negotiating partners,” Dooley added.“Senator Baucus and I are also working to incorporate the input of numerous trade stakeholdersin deciding how to best pursue new FTAs.”

Results from the GAO study will be available this fall.###