The upcoming Congressional debate on fast-track negotiating authority will be “vociferous” and “consequential,” Robert Pastor, the director of the Latin American and Caribbean Program at The Carter Center, said during a panel discussion in Atlanta last week.

      But he also indicated that the Administration will find it more difficult to pass the legislation than enacting Nafta in 1993. “The language on the environmental and labor issues is not at a critical mass,” he said.

      Dr. Pastor added that he did not detect “a full court strategy” by the Administration similar to the efforts made to pass Nafta.  Yet he said time still remained for such a strategy to be put into motion, and that the timing was critical for Latin America “which is poised to take off.”

      Meanwhile, Robert Wright, Canada’s deputy-minister for international trade, who participated in the panel discussion, said that his government considered it “extremely important” that the legislation be passed.

      The authority would guarantee straight up-or-down votes in Congress on new trade agreements and forbids the tacking on of amendments to specific trade legislation.

      The Latin American participants at the upcoming conference of the Free Trade Agreement for the Americas to be held in Santiago, Chile, next year would be “skeptical” of the authority of a U.S. delegation without the authority, Mr. Wright added.

      The panelists, also including Jaime Serra, Mexico’s former minister of trade who was the lead Nafta negotiator on behalf of his country, indicated that the further integration of Nafta’s partners would proceed according to schedule.

      But the panelists were generally more skeptical about the ability of Nafta to be enlarged in the near future.