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WHITE HOUSE, GOP SETTLE TRADE PACT DIFFERENCES

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Clinton administration officials and House Republican leaders have settled key differences that threatened to block congressional approval of a new global trading agreement.

The two sides also reached a compromise that would give the president authority to negotiate future agreements under special procedures that would bar congressional amendments. The administration dropped its proposal to specifically authorize negotiators to include protection of labor rights and the environment in future agreements.The House Ways and Means Committee could vote as early as Tuesday on implementing the December 1993 agreement to expand the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, or GATT. The Senate Finance Committee has completed its work on the trade issues.

House and Senate votes could come by September. "There is an agreement to move as quickly as possible," a senior administration official said.

Under the congressional "fast-track" process, the administration must win approval of the measure implementing the GATT expansion from House Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees. Then it would submit the measure to the House and Senate for votes on approval or disapproval, with no amendments permitted.

The trade agreement, which extends GATT rules to cover farm subsidies, intellectual property and services and create a new World Trade Organization to enforce it, ended seven years of contentious negotiations among more than 100 nations.

Hailed by Clinton as one of the most important trade pacts ever, its provisions nonetheless stirred strong partisan debate.

House Republican Whip Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., has questioned whether the proposed WTO, with its expanded powers to resolve international trade disputes, might threaten U.S. sovereignty.

Although some details remain unsettled, the compromise reached Friday would permit the House and Senate to reconsider U.S. membership in the WTO after five years.

Rep. Bill Archer of Texas, the House Ways and Means Committee's ranking Republican, said House Republicans still have serious concerns about how to make up the $13 billion in revenue the government would lose over five years as a result of the trade pact's lower tariffs.

Congressional budget rules require that new spending cuts or revenue increases be found to offset the lost revenue. But Archer said the two sides are close enough to proceed.

The administration's decision to drop references to environmental and labor issues ended a sharp disagreement with Republicans over future negotiations.

Clinton and many Democrats called for new trade deals to assure that countries could not gain unfair trading advantages by being pollution havens or abusing workers.

But Republicans insisted such problems should not be handled within trade pacts.