NAFTA Appeals Ruling Gives Clinton Team Boost
PRESIDENT Clinton expressed optimism about winning congressional passage for the North American Free Trade Agreement after a United States appeals court rejected a legal challenge that could have doomed the accord.
Mr. Clinton told reporters at the White House Friday that he was ``beginning to feel a little bit better'' about the prospects for the pact, which would create a free-trade zone among the US, Canada, and Mexico.
He said NAFTA, which must be approved by Congress before it can take effect Jan. 1, would help the environment and lead to ``more jobs and high incomes'' in the US.
US Trade Representative Mickey Kantor predicted that the victory in the courtroom would add momentum supporting the pact in the political battle ahead.
Clinton's campaign to save NAFTA received a big boost when the appeals court by a 3-to-0 vote overturned a judge's ruling that would have required an environmental review of the massive agreement. The decision spared the Clinton administration from preparing an environmental-impact statement, a lengthy process that could have scuttled the whole agreement.
The legal battle, however, may not be over. The three environmental and public interest groups that brought the lawsuit said they would take their case to the Supreme Court.
But they conceded that even if they finally won before the nation's highest court, it would be too late to influence the debate in Congress over the controversial agreement. Wireless-communication controversy
Federal regulators are trying to spark competition in new wireless-technology markets, but their plan is drawing criticism for slicing the future communications landscape into too many pieces.
The Federal Communications Commission Thursday decided to divvy up a big segment of the nation's airwaves to enable a wide range of companies to deliver the next level of mobile-telephone service. The action will create slots for as many as seven carriers in every city and will allow competitors to bid on spectrum blocks.
But would-be players in the emerging arena say they've been shortchanged by the FCC plan. For starters, they contend that there will be too many competitors in each market, limiting their ability to enter an arena dominated by large and well-established cellular rivals. The agency allowed established cellular interests to gain access to licenses covering the areas where they already offer traditional cellular service.
The Bell companies were each handed blocks of spectrum nearly 15 years ago when the FCC allotted a smaller but still valuable portion of bandwidth that allowed the growth of the now-thriving cellular industry. Companies such as titan McCaw Cellular Communications Inc. were awarded free licenses by lottery.
With only two competitors per market, cellular companies had an easier time winning business than would those who may eventually compete against a much larger number under the plan for new personal communications services.
Also, under orders from Congress, the FCC finally will require companies to pay to use the publicly owned airwaves. The government figures that the licenses are worth about $10.2 billion.
To counter that, many companies made plans to pool their resources in hopes that the FCC would grant them a national license. But those expectations were not met. They now plan to lobby the FCC to change its position, but insiders say FCC action is unlikely given the time it has already invested in its plan.