Pat Choate, Ross Perot’s vice president running mate in 1996, and William A. Kiskanen, chairman of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington D.C., both rebuffed in Atlanta last week claims of the Clinton administration that fast-track negotiating authority was essential for the expansion of the U.S.’s global  trading interests.

      Mr. Choate was adamantly opposed to the authority which would enable trade legislation to be passed by Congress with simple majorities and without tacking on amendments.

      He said that an “end of an era” had occurred with the passing of the Great Depression and “hot and cold wars” during which time the President had been granted greater authority to make trade agreements under fast track procedures.  In a global economy, “the nature of trade has changed,” and trade agreements need a broader national consensus, he added.

      Dr. Niskanen called the President’s failure to gather enough support to pass the fast track legislation recently “a big set back” for the administration.  He also predicted that the President would only attempt to pass in the future a radically revised version of the legislation, perhaps limited to agricultural goods.

      He added that he was particularly opposed to a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) and was concerned that fast track authority would have hastened its creation.  He called the FTAA “a stumbling block and not a building block to multilateral agreements.”

      In addition, both men were adamant about the insufficiencies of job training programs in the country.

      The conference was presented by Council on Foreign Relations, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to the promotion of an understanding of international affairs, and the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs, part of the Ivan Allen College of Management, Policy and International Affairs at the Georgia Institute of Technology.