via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.
Highlights of USTR report on key trade policy
This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction
or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.
The U.S. Trade Representative's office
on Monday released a congressionally mandated report on trade policy.
Importantly, the report said the Obama administration would consider changes
to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), set benchmarks for
approval of pending trade deals with Colombia and South Korea, and seek
to change the direction of the Doha trade talks.
-- Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations:
The report warned that no further progress is likely in
the Doha Round negotiations until other countries agree to improve their
market-opening offers to ensure new opportunities for U.S. workers, farmers,
and businesses. “A strong, market-opening agreement for both goods
and services … would be an important contribution to addressing
the global economic crisis,” the report said. “The administration
is committed to working with our trading partners for such an outcome.
However, it will be necessary to correct the imbalance in the current
negotiations in which the value of what the United States would be expected
to give is well-known and easily calculable, whereas the broad flexibilities
available to others leaves unclear the value of new opportunities for
our workers, farmers, ranchers, and businesses.”
-- Panama FTA: The Obama
administration hopes to submit to Congress “relatively quickly”
the pending U.S. free trade agreement (FTA) with Panama. The agreement with
Panama was sidelined after Pedro Miguel Gonzalez, wanted in the U.S. for
the murder of a U.S. soldier in 1992, was elected in 2007 to Panama’s
National Assembly. Gonzalez recently stepped down.
-- Colombia, South Korea FTAs: The
administration will establish “benchmarks” for progress on
the pending FTAs with Colombia and South Korea, but no timetable for sending
the agreements to Congress is available. In the past, Obama has opposed
submitting the Colombia and Korea FTAs to Congress at the present time,
arguing Colombia needs to do more to curtail violence against union members
and that the Korea agreement as negotiated by the Bush administration
falls short in opening the Korean market to U.S. automobile and auto-parts
-- NAFTA: The administration
will work with Canada and Mexico to identify ways in which the North American
Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) could be improved without having an adverse
effect on trade. “We will do this in a collaborative spirit and
emphasize ways in which this process can benefit the citizens of all three
countries,” the report said. Obama has promised to "fix"
NAFTA by adding enforceable labor and environmental provisions into core
text of the agreement. Currently, those areas are covered by side agreements
to the core text.
-- Trade Promotion Authority (TPA): The
Obama administration will only ask Congress to renew its TPA -- under
which trade agreements negotiated by the executive branch cannot be amended
— after engaging in extensive consultations with Congress “to
establish the proper constraints on that authority and after we have assessed
our priorities and made clear to this body and the American people what
we intend to do with it.”
-- Trade Agreement Reviews: Reflecting
an Obama campaign promise, the report said that the administration plans
to review the implementation of all FTAs and bilateral investment treaties
(BITs) to ensure that they advance the public interest. “We particularly
recognize the need to pay special attention to how our policies influence
the well-being of people struggling both at home and in the poorest regions
of the world,” the report said. “Fundamentally, our trade
policy needs a keen appreciation of its economic consequences for our
workers, their families, and their communities.” It said, however,
that eliminating barriers to trade in light of the current serious turmoil
in the U.S. economy and financial markets “will be a challenge.”
This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or
retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.