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Bush signs trade bill into law granting trade promotion authority. (Washington Alert).

Prior to departing for its August recess, Congress approved and President Bush signed into law an omnibus trade package giving the president enhanced authority to negotiate free-trade deals overseas. The Senate approved the package of trade bills (H.R. 3009) on August 1 by a vote of 64-34 after the House approved the same measure July 27 by a vote of 215-212.

The vote capped an 18-month struggle by the Bush Administration to renew the controversial trade promotion authority (TPA) procedure. The procedure expired eight years ago and efforts to renew it have been unsuccessful until now. The Bush administration views TPA as critical to its ambitious trade agenda. Under TPA, which used to be called fast-track negotiating authority, Congress may vote up or down on legislation implementing trade deals but may not amend it.

In addition to TPA, the new law contains new trade adjustment assistance (TAA) benefits for workers displaced by trade because of shifts in production to other countries. The lawmakers agreed to give displaced workers a 65% advanceable and refundable tax credit that can be used to pay for health insurance under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) or for the purchase of certain state-based group coverage options. TAA benefits (cash assistance and job training benefits for displaced workers) will he expanded from the current 52 weeks to 78 weeks to allow workers enough time to complete training programs. In addition, it includes provisions for an additional 26 weeks of training and income support for displaced workers who must begin with remedial education, such as English as a second language.

The law creates a new, two-year "alternate TAA" pilot program that would allow older workers who take lower-paying jobs after their discharge to recoup up to half of the difference between their old and new salaries. The cash benefit is capped at $10,000/ individual. TAA benefits also are expanded to "secondary workers"--those employed by suppliers or "down-stream" producers to firms certified to be adversely affected by trade and whose workers are eligible for TAA.

In order to qualify for benefits under the secondary worker provision, suppliers or downstream producers also would be required to prove that the TAA-certified firm's loss of business "contributed importantly" to its own demise.
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Comment:Bush signs trade bill into law granting trade promotion authority. (Washington Alert).
Publication:Modern Casting
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2002
Words:375
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