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Free Trade Pact Wins Conditional Support From Senate GOP Majority

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Just days after the proposed trade pact with Canada and Mexico took a beating from Ross Perot and President Clinton’s budget director, a majority of Senate Republicans on Thursday gave the treaty an endorsement of sorts.

In a letter to the White House, 27 of the Senate’s 43 Republicans told Clinton they would work for passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement, but that their support hinges on the President’s willingness to forgo seeking tough supplemental agreements. Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.), the minority leader, was among those who signed the letter.

Also Thursday, a group of environmental organizations said they are close to formulating a united approach to the pact, under which they would offer their support if the agreement contains specific safeguards against pollution.

Initial negotiations were completed last summer, but the agreement needs adjustments--because of objections in the United States--in further talks intended to protect the environment and labor standards. The pact would eliminate barriers to trade among the three countries over 15 years.

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