New U.S. Trade Representative Gets to Work as Top Trade Negotiator

New U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab said Friday it is crucial to wrap up the key elements of a global trade agreement by the end of July. She didn't say how she would get past sticking points with Europe and developing nations.

Schwab, who won Senate confirmation on Thursday to succeed Rob Portman as the president's top trade negotiator, said the administration had no interest in pursuing anything less than a significant reduction in trade barriers on farm products, manufactured goods and service industries such as banking.

"The United States is determined to seek a robust outcome," she told reporters. "We are not willing to settle for something less than an ambitious outcome."

The United States is among 149 nations who are trying to conclude a global round of trade talks known as the Doha Round.

Those negotiations have missed a number of deadlines so far because of an inability to reach a deal on cutting farm barriers in Europe, the United States and other rich nations and a refusal of major developing countries such as India and Brazil to agree to significant tariff reductions in the areas of manufactured goods and services.

Schwab said she would travel to Geneva at the end of June for another round of negotiations with the goal of wrapping up the major outlines of a deal by the end of July.

She said the timing was crucial because without significant progress in coming weeks, a completed deal probably can't be achieved by the end of this year. She said the agreement needed to be done by late December in order to make sure it can be sent to Congress under expedited procedures that are set to expire on July 1, 2007.

"If we are not done with all the critical elements by the end of July, it will be very hard to meet that schedule," she said.

Schwab, who had been a deputy trade representative since November, is Bush's third top trade negotiator.

She succeeds Portman, who was picked by Bush this spring to become White House budget director as part of a White House shakeup to bolster the president's sagging approval ratings. Robert Zoellick, the administration's first trade representative, is now deputy secretary of state.