Reuters Sat May 19, 2007 9:41 AM IST
Washington - A senior Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday defended a trade deal reached last week with the Bush administration, in response to criticism from some party members.
"I think there's a lot of misunderstanding with the agreement," House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel, a New York Democrat, told PBS' Nightly Business Report. "I cannot see how anybody would be upset in the Democratic Party, except for one thing: they were not included when we had the press conference."
Rangel was the lead Democratic negotiator in talks with the Bush administration and Republican lawmakers aimed at clearing the way for approval of free trade pacts with Peru and Panama and easing the path for pacts with Colombia and South Korea.
After months of closed-door negotiations, the deal reached last week in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office includes a long-time Democratic party demand for labor and environmental provisions enforced through trade sanctions, the same as for commercial provisions of the pact.
However, a number of Democratic lawmakers -- such as Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Ohio, Rep. Brad Sherman of California and Rep. Michael Michaud of Maine -- have complained that Rangel ignored the broader trade concerns of House Democrats.
They have demanded a full meeting of House Democratic members on Tuesday to discuss their views.
Other critics of the so-called "secret deal" complain it could allow the White House to win approval of trade agreements with the support of less than half of the House Democrats, who control the chamber after last year's election.
Since that victory, Rangel has stressed his desire to restore bipartisan support for trade through an "American" trade policy, rather than a Republican or Democratic one.
In the interview, Rangel offered no apology for the deal that was struck and said the only thing he would do differently was to reach it "much faster. I'd ignore a lot of people that really was just wasting my time, and didn't intend to support it all."
Reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved.
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