The TPA, also known as "fast-track," was extended for two years in 2005 and expires at midnight on Saturday.

"Our legislative priorities do not include the renewal of fast-track authority," Nancy Pelosi, the House of Representatives Speaker, and other leading Democrats said on Friday in a statement.

The House Democrats said they had a plan to improve US trade policy, while at the same time addressing increased economic insecurity felt by American families.

Among the steps considered is the introduction soon of legislation to address the growing US trade imbalance with China and strengthen overall enforcement of US trade agreements and US trade laws.

"Before that debate can even begin, we must expand the benefits of globalization to all Americans, including taking the actions outlined above. We hope that the administration will join us in these efforts," they said.

Senator Max Baucus, chairman of the Finance Committee that has jurisdiction over trade policy, said his panel would turn to the TPA "at an appropriate time in the future," after it has been reshaped in "a more powerful job-creating tool for American workers and businesses."

Meanwhile, the Bush administration made a last-ditch pitch to save the TPA.

"It's regrettable that Congress is letting this authority expire this weekend," said Tony Fratto, the Bush spokesman.

"It will be damaging to our economy and our national security if Congress abandons America's leadership role in trade and the global marketplace," he added.

May compromise

Condoleezza Rice called on Congress to
renew TPA "immediately" [EPA] 
Susan Schwab, the US Trade Representative, pointed to a May compromise reached between the Republican administration and Congress on several bilateral trade pacts negotiated under the TPA.

"I am hopeful this spirit of cooperation will guide our efforts to renew TPA," she said in a statement.

Condoleezza Rice, the Secretary of State, called on Congress to renew 

 

TPA "immediately."

"If Congress does not renew that authority, America will lose an important diplomatic tool that has proven essential to bringing foreign leaders to the negotiating table and advancing our nation's broader foreign policy interests," Rice said.

The White House appeal came as Congress headed into a week-long recess for the July 4 Independence Day holiday. The House of Representatives adjourned on Thursday and the Senate on Friday.

Agreements

Meanwhile, the Bush administration was planning to wrap up a week of bilateral free-trade agreements negotiated under TPA with the signing of a pact with South Korea on Saturday.

The United States sealed FTAs with Peru on Monday and Colombia and Panama on Thursday. However,House Speaker Pelosi and other Democratic leaders in the lower chamber said they would not support approval of the pacts with South Korea or Colombia at this time.

The US-South Korea deal lacks adequate market access for the United States, particularly in the automobile sector, she said.

"The agreement does not address in an effective manner the persistent problem of non-tariff barriers, particularly those blocking access of US manufactured products in South Korea's market," they said.

"That is particularly the case in the automotive sector where, last year, South Korea exported more than 700,000 cars into the US, while the United States exported fewer than 5,000."

The lawmakers also said they were concerned about rampant violence in Colombia and weakness in its legal system, and called for "concrete evidence of sustained results" there before any trade pact would find support.