Trade and the G W Bush Administration bis

A sec­ond Bush admin­is­tra­tion is very like­ly to have the same trade out­look as the first, although it will be man­aged by dif­fer­ent peo­ple. The top pri­or­i­ty for Bush bis is like­ly, again, to be bilat­er­al agree­ments: par­tic­u­lar­ly the stymied “Free Trade Agree­ment of the Americas”: This will be, like all such region­al trade agree­ments, essen­tial­ly an expres­sion of a polit­i­cal rela­tion­ship. That was the “problem”: in the first Bush admin­is­tra­tion when the Brazil­ians, in par­tic­u­lar, showed mut­ed enthu­si­asm for a US-led west­ern hemi­sphere pact. Will things change now that Bush has four more years? Maybe. A sec­ond pri­or­i­ty for Bush bis will be to con­clude the Doha Round of WTO trade nego­ti­a­tions. The first Bush admin­is­tra­tion did not give the impres­sion that it had any par­tic­u­lar vision for the glob­al agree­ment. One of the Admin­is­ra­tion’s finest moments was it’s deci­sion to press for the launch at Doha only two months after the ter­ror­ist attack in New York and with­out nego­ti­at­ing author­i­ty from Con­gress. At that stage, it was impor­tant to get the nego­ti­a­tions going as a sort of demon­stra­tion that inter­na­tion­al trade remained one of the arts of peace in a time of poten­tial glob­al con­flict and uncer­tain­ty. But the sub­se­quent per­for­mance of the Bush Admin­is­tra­tion and USTR Zoel­lick was less impres­sive. The US resigned the lead­er­ship role it should have had after Doha by accept­ing from Con­gress the most expan­sive farm sub­si­dies ever (in the 2002 Farm Bill); by pedan­ti­cal­ly oppos­ing solu­tions to minor trade issues such as drugs patents and the impact of its cot­ton sub­si­dies; by bad­ly under­es­ti­mat­ing the con­fu­sion and antag­o­nism that it’s joint agen­da with Europe on com­pe­ti­tion pol­i­cy, invest­ment and trade facili­ti­a­tion had cre­at­ed in devel­op­ing coun­tries, and; by con­fect­ing with Europe a trans­par­ent, self-serv­ing ‘solu­tion’ for the agri­cul­ture conun­drums in the last month before the Can­cún Min­is­te­r­i­al meet­ing. It is pos­si­ble that the Bush Admin­is­tra­tion bis could reverse this mis­er­able record and re-estab­lish the leader­hip of ideas and ideals that the US pro­vid­ed in GATT and WTO for many decades. But it’s more like­ly not, giv­en that the Pres­i­den­t’s “trade nego­ti­at­ing authority”: due to expire on 1 June 2005 (although an exten­sion to 1 June, 2007 is pos­si­ble, sub­ject to Con­gres­sion­al approval). The short­er-odds are on a strat­e­gy aimed a com­plet­ing the WTO talks with­in the time-frame of the cur­rent nego­ti­at­ing author­i­ty, on terms that are, at best, non-prej­u­di­cial to pro­tec­tion­ist inter­ests in the USA. This group that now includes not only the “tex­tiles and garments”: indus­try but also sec­tors of US agri­cul­ture includ­ing sug­ar, cot­ton, peanuts that are insignif­i­cant eco­nom­i­cal­ly but retain pow­er­ful polit­i­cal friends. “Here”:, out of inter­est, is a report of cud­dly VP Dick Cheney try­ing to win the hearts of Min­neso­ta sug­ar farm­ers before the elec­tion. His promise to try to keep the issue most­ly in the WTO is a means of sooth­ing the audi­ence’s fears that free-trade agree­ments with Latin Amer­i­ca (the real Bush bis agen­da) mean floods of sug­ar from places like Brazil. The WTO, they believe is a paper tiger by com­par­i­son. Well, “maybe not”: any more.

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