Perhaps no where in Washington, D.C., is there a better example of the political machine at its worst than when it comes to trade policy. In truth, all countries are guilty of the same evils in this area.

But the U.S. Republicans and Democrats have played with the trade issue for too long now. The Republicans would have nothing to do with trade policy that gave President Clinton the authority to approve trade agreements without Congress' consent. Now, that George W. is in the White House, the Republicans are more comfortable with Presidential trade powers. Yet, senators from both camps are dragging their feet.

Meanwhile, U.S. agricultural goods and the farmers who raise them are in limbo, and consumers in other countries are left holding an empty bag as well.

President Bush's has called for passage of Trade Promotion Authority legislation by April 22. The National Pork Producers Council and many other ag groups are supporting that request. It's in Congress' hand where has been all along.

"Every day we go by without [trade] authority is another day we are missing opportunities to help our economy, to help our workers, to help our country, to relate to our friends around the world," Bush said urging the Senate to pass TPA.

"While U.S. pork producers support bilateral and regional trade initiatives, the multilateral World Trade Organization negotiations are clearly the most important trade initiative for pork producers and for others in U.S. food and agriculture," says Dave Roper, NPPC president. "Global food and agriculture tariffs average 62 percent, while U.S. food and agriculture tariffs average only 12 percent. There is a deadline of March 2003 in the ongoing WTO agriculture negotiations for establishing the framework of the final agreement.'"

Roper goes on to point out: "Our negotiating partners must know that U.S. leadership is based on and supported by authority from Congress. Without TPA, we will relinquish the front seat in the negotiations while the EU and other countries determine the rules and take us for a ride."

The House of Representatives passed TPA legislation on Dec. 6. The Senate Finance Committee passed its version on Dec. 12. However, no date for TPA consideration by the full Senate has been scheduled.