Trade promotion authority for President Bush is essential for the United States’ continued leadership in global trade and the creation of a Free Trade Area of the Americas in 2005, said Grant Aldonas, undersecretary of international trade at the U.S. Department of Commerce, who spoke at the World Trade Center Atlanta last week.

            TPA would allow the president to make trade negotiations that U.S. Congress could vote up or down but could not amend. Mr. Aldonas addressed this issue at a WTCA luncheon celebrating World Trade Week, May 19-25.

            During a press conference with U.S. Reps. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss (Both R-Ga.), Mr. Aldonas told GlobalFax that without TPA, other countries are writing the rules in terms of trade. The only defense the U.S. has to protect its domestic industries is to increase tariffs on foreign imports, he said, which does not bode well for a hemispheric free trade area.

            “Some Latin American countries would prefer to leave the U.S. out of trade in the region,” Mr. Aldonas said. “Without TPA, countries have an excuse not to deal with the U.S. at all.” He added that some Latin American trading partners may have no interest in negotiating with the U.S. if trade bills can get stuck for months in congressional debate over amendments, as is the case without TPA.

            Chile, for example, has been waiting some eight years for a free trade relationship with the U.S., but without presidential TPA, the South American country would not benefit as much from such an agreement, he said.

            TPA legislation will pass eventually, Mr. Aldonas predicted, because it is in the best interest of the national economy. Georgia Sen. Zell Miller (D-Ga.) is in favor of TPA, while Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga.) is “still waivering” on the issue, Mr. Isakson said. But both he and Mr. Chambliss were hopeful the state senators would support the legislation, saying that it would benefit Georgia’s economy, especially agriculture and manufacturing.

Atlanta was the undersecretary’s first stop on a tour of several U.S. cities to celebrate World Trade Week. He told GlobalFax that Atlanta was chosen as the Commerce Department’s model for integrated federal-state and public-private cooperation in export assistance.

“If you want to see export promotion assistance at its best, you have to go to Atlanta,” he said.

The state’s U.S. Export Assistance Center works closely with the Georgia Department of Industry, Trade and Tourism and its officers around the world to help Georgia companies export. Mr. Aldonas presented 16 export achievement awards to small- and medium-sized Georgia companies at the World Trade Center luncheon, recognizing their exporting excellence in new markets.

Contact USEAC in Atlanta at (404) 657-1965 or visit for Commerce Department export assistance services.