Officials call for trade legislation, tax cuts

Bush administration officials Jan. 17 called on Congress to pass trade promotion authority legislation and an economic stimulus package that would cut taxes, actions they said would help bring the economy out of recession.

The officials, including Commerce Secretary Donald Evans, spoke before technology executives at Cary, N.C., software firm SAS Institute Inc.

"We all know what incredible role information technology has had in driving this economy over the last 10 years or so. We have every reason to believe it will continue if we make ... sure we are creating the right conditions ... for entrepreneurs, businesses and workers ... to be innovative," Evans said.

Vital to creating favorable economic conditions are cutting taxes and giving the president trade promotion authority, said Evans and Glenn Hubbard, chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers.

"It's very important that we get a stimulus package to provide extra incentives for business investment and tax cuts to households," Hubbard said.

Raising taxes would be the worst thing to do, Evans said. "The way you put people back to work is to lower taxes," he said, because the more income workers keep, the more they will have to spend on goods and services, which will create jobs for others.

Most economist believe that if the president had trade promotion authority, the result would be equivalent to an annual tax cut of $2,500 for a family of four, Hubbard said. Trade promotion authority would give the president authority to negotiate trade agreements that can be vetoed, but not modified, by Congress. It's a power the president hasn't had since 1994.

International trade will grow dramatically over the next 10 to 20 years, from 25 percent to 50 percent of the nation's economy, Evans said, making trade promotion authority vital to continued growth.

"There are 133 free-trade agreements worldwide today, and we are party to only three of them," Evans said. "We are on the sidelines. Trade is going to continue to grow dramatically in the years ahead. We can either lead or we can let someone else lead. The way to [lead] is to deliver trade promotion authority to the president."

Last year, the House of Representatives passed trade promotion authority legislation by one vote. Evans said he's optimistic the Senate will pass the bill as well after it returns Jan. 23.

"I'm expecting the leadership will bring TPA to the floor for a vote," he said.

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