BUSH ADMINISTRATION PROMISES MORE FREE-TRADE AGREEMENTS
The Bush administration told lawmakers that it would continue to aggressively pursue free-trade agreements in 2003.
The White House’s trade promotion authority was restored in 2002 after a lapse of eight years. Bush administration officials have already began to use this authority to negotiate bilateral agreements with trading nations and to engage more actively in the World Trade Organization.
“The United States has submitted far-reaching proposals to the World Trade Organization, including plans to remove all tariffs on manufactured goods, open agriculture and service markets, and address the special needs of poorer developing countries,” said U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick to members of the House Ways and Means Committee on Feb. 26.
Last year, the administration completed free-trade agreement negotiations with Chile and Singapore, now awaiting approval from Congress.
The administration also plans to enter negotiations with the five countries of the Central American Common Market, Australia, Morocco, and five countries of the Southern African Customs Union, and continue its efforts to develop a 34-country trade pact under the Free Trade Area of the Americas.
The 2002 Trade Act also allowed the administration to cut tariffs by an estimated $20 billion on imported goods from the world’s poorest nations. The legislation also allowed for the renewal and expansion of the Andean Trade Preference Act, African Growth and Opportunity Act, Generalized System of Preferences, and Caribbean Basin Trade Preferences Act.
“Even as it has rebuilt support for trade at home, this administration has been working abroad to open markets on all levels: globally, regionally, and bilaterally,” Zoellick said. “By moving forward on multiple fronts, the United States is exerting its leverage for openness, creating a new competition in liberalization, targeting the needs of poorer developing countries, and creating a fresh political dynamic by putting free trade on a global offensive.”
Zoellick said the administration would also seek to resolve trade disputes, such as telecommunications and sweeteners with Mexico, softwood lumber with Canada, beef with the European Union, and apples with Japan.
House Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas, R-Calif., praised the administration’s leadership in pursuing free-trade agreements, but warned that Congress would closely watch the president’s use of trade promotion authority.
“The administration has moved ahead quickly to establish an ambitious agenda for seizing these opportunities,” Thomas said. “I am committed to adherence of the rigorous consultation process and the detailed negotiating objectives established in TPA.”
“The Bush administration is committed to active consultations with Congress to ensure that America’s negotiating objectives draw upon the views of its elected representatives, and that they have regular opportunities to provide advice throughout the negotiating process,” Zoellick said.