MICKEY KANTOR, the United States trade representative, says the White House is ``within striking distance'' of winning a major victory on trade policy in the House of Representatives.
The House is slated to vote Nov. 17 on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Ambassador Kantor told reporters yesterday at a Monitor breakfast that the arguments in favor of NAFTA are beginning to sway many congressmen, including some from industrialized states.
Opponents of NAFTA insist that Kantor is being too optimistic about prospects for the agreement, which was hammered out first by President Bush and then by President Clinton, with Mexico and Canada.
Kantor used the auto industry to illustrate the advantages of NAFTA for the US.
Currently, the Mexican auto market is virtually closed to US factories, which sell only 1,000 cars a year there. Kantor says in the first year of a new agreement, US exports to Mexico would rise to 60,000 vehicles.
The ambassador notes that already the US market is open to exports from Mexico. Mexican tariffs are four times as high, so free trade goes in only one direction.
NAFTA would make free-trade a two-way street, he says.