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News Briefs

Bush to Pursue Free Trade At Quebec City Summit


President Bush lands today in Quebec City, Canada, for a 34-nation summit, where he hopes to invigorate his push in Congress for authority to negotiate a Western Hemisphere trade agreement and other accords.

Bush campaigned as a free trader, but the issue was not one of his top six priorities. Now, with his tax cut and education plan moving through Congress, he plans to turn to his bid for “trade promotion authority,” also known as fast-track authority, under which lawmakers agree to vote trade pacts up or down without amendments.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick said the White House is ready to commit political capital to winning this authority, and he expects to get it this year. “I’ve now got trade as one of the key items on the legislative agenda for this year,” Zoellick said.

Bush faces a tough sell at home. Democrats are insisting that as a condition for their approval of fast track authority, future trade deals must include provisions requiring participating countries to maintain high standards on worker rights and the environment.

Taiwan Weighs Weapons Options


As the Bush administration weighs a major arms sale to Taiwan, the Taiwanese government and private security experts here are divided over whether the controversial Aegis advanced radar system should be part of the package.

Foreign Minister Tien Hung-mao said in an interview that his government’s quest to obtain the Aegis system weapon has become “incredibly politicized” in Taiwan, indicating that although he supports buying the system, now might not be the time because of the potential cost in relations among Beijing, Washington and Taipei.

President Chen Shui-bian has made known he unreservedly supports the Aegis purchase. But within the Taiwanese armed forces, the debate has been fierce, sources said.

According to reports, President Bush’s aides have recommended against the Aegis sale but have urged selling other equipment including Kidd-class destroyers. Bush is scheduled to make a decision soon, a choice more politically charged since the Apr. 1 collision between a U.S. surveillance plane and a Chinese interceptor.

Sierra Pacific Plans To Scale Back Its Clear-Cutting


California’s largest owner of private timberland is dramatically reducing the amount of Sierra Nevada acreage it plans to clear-cut over the next century, officials announced Thursday.

Executives at Sierra Pacific Industries said they will scale back clear-cuts by 70 percent in response to pressure from residents near its vast logging holdings.

Though the sharp change in logging practices could help wildlife, company officials said they are shifting tactics mostly because of aesthetic concerns of neighbors.

“There’s a lot of good thinking people who don’t like the look of a clear-cut,” said Red Emmerson, owner of the Redding-based timber company. “We just want to be good neighbors. That’s the reason for making this concession.”

Environmentalists, however, were critical.

“What they’ve come up with is pretty much just window dressing,” said Warren Alford, a Sierra Club conservationist. “The real problem with the forest isn’t just the aesthetics, it’s this dramatic fragmentation. It’s affecting a number of species facing extinction.”