Despite this widespread effort to liberalize trade, political opposition to trade liberalization was growing in Congress at the end of the century. Although Congress had ratified NAFTA, the pact continued to draw criticism from some sectors and politicians who saw it as unfair.
What's more, Congress refused to give the president special negotiating authority seen as essential to successfully reaching new trade agreements. Trade pacts like NAFTA were negotiated under "fast-track" procedures in which Congress relinquished some of its authority by promising to vote on ratification within a specified period of time and by pledging to refrain from seeking to amend the proposed treaty. Foreign trade officials were reluctant to negotiate with the United States -- and risk political opposition within their own countries -- without fast-track arrangements in place in the United States. In the absence of fast-track procedures, American efforts to advance the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas and to expand NAFTA to include Chile languished, and further progress on other trade liberalization measures appeared in doubt.
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This article is adapted from the book "Outline of the U.S. Economy" by Conte and Carr and has been adapted with permission from the U.S. Department of State.