Thursday, November 01, 2007

FTA for Peru by 15 November

In following the progress of the US-Peru free trade agreement, I've learned a bit of POLS 101 stuff about how a trade deal passes into US law. First it has to be subjected to a 'dummy vote' by the Senate Finance Committee and House Ways and Means Committee. It's at this point that the President prepares the bill that will be voted on by Congress to formally ratify the agreement.

This bill is then passed to the same committees for a formal vote, before finally going to a vote in full sessions of both the House and Senate.

The process thus has six stages in total. The Peru agreement has now passed through the first four of these stages, which is to say that, following approval in the dummy committee votes, an implementation bill has been introduced into Congress and has been passed (with unanimity) by both committees. Although the 'fast track' authority of President Bush was ended on 1 July 2007, trade agreements signed prior to this point are subject to the fast track rules. This means that once the relevant committees report back on the bill, both chambers of Congress have 15 days to vote.

By this logic, the Peru trade agreement should go to a full vote by 15 November, since the final committee vote (that of the Ways and Means Committee) occurred yesterday. The agreement will need 218 votes to pass in the House. Peruvian news sources report their officials as estimating that it will have at least 300 in favour.

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