It has been almost one year since President Clinton's hard-won victory for NAFTA. Now, he's pulling out all the stops to win passage of the GATT world-trade pact. But he's discovering what a difference a year--and plunging political capital--can make. On Sept. 13, Trade Representative Mickey Kantor was forced to drop renewal of Presidential "fast-track" authority as the price for getting lawmakers to O.K. GATT.
That should clear the way for congressional approval. But it could cripple Clinton's remaining trade agenda--and tie the hands of future Presidents. Under fast track, Congress can only vote yes or no on trade accords--it waives the right to make changes.
With fast track jettisoned, the President and his trade team will go to November's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation powwow and other future conferences lacking authority to nail down deals. Worse, Clinton may not be able to win back fast track. Hill critics, who see trade policy as captive of business elites eager to surrender U.S. sovereignty to cash in on a global economy, are itching to limit Clinton's trade powers. With all that at stake, GATT had better be great.