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Progress: How September 11 Affected U.S. Trade Policy
Russell L. Smith, Willkie Farr & Gallagher
Once the shock and sadness
of the September 11, 2001 attacks had subsided, Americans, and particularly
decision makers and opinion leaders in Washington, began to try
to understand the profound ramifications of a foreign terrorist
attack on American soil. Trade and global economic policy emerged
very quickly as a vitally important area. USTR Zoellick almost immediately
made it clear that there was a direct link between trade, economic
development, and the circumstances responsible for the frustration
and hoplessness, and extremism that breed terrorism. Initially,
Zoellick's point was to emphasize the need to pass Trade Promotion
Authority legislation. While there were those in Congress and the
press who criticized Zoellick strongly for allegedly using a national
tragedy for political purposes, events belied that accusation. First,
Congress passed TPA relatively quickly, and second, the Doha Ministerial
that launched a new round of global trade negotiations was marked
by a unity and determination to reach consensus on an agenda that
could not have been more different from that of the disaster in
Seattle two years before. Zoellick was proven both correct and pragmatic--events
provided him with a principled goal, and he used the opportunity
to achieve an agenda that ultimately help realize those goals.
The ultimate realization of a balanced multilateral agenda that
encourages global economic growth and especially benefits the poorest
nations is, however, encountering the practical hurdles of national
self-interest. Differences over every substantive area of the Doha
Agenda are for the time standing in the way of progress at the multilateral
level. The knowledge this would happen and the understanding it
was vital to continue to link economic development to the struggle
against terrorism at all levels, has led to the other major trade
policy initiative generated by the September 11 attacks--the U.S.
effort to achieve a wide range of bilateral and regional trade agreements.
One need simply review the list of nations and regions with whom
the United States has or seeks to conclude agreements to understand
the strategic and political motives of Ambassador Zoellick in undertaking
Again, Zoellick is being criticized this effort. The criticism is
especially harsh from WTO officials, who see bilateral negoations
as a threat to the Doha Agenda and the WTO itself. This allegation
is basically not justified. While bilateral and regional negotiations
have their own problems, if conducted with a measure of sensitivity
to mulitlateral impacts, they can make a positive contribution to
WTO-related objectives. Certainly, to give just one example, breakthroughs
on agriculture issues at the bilateral level can only be helpful
to the Doha negotiations on that issue, which are essentially at
a standstill. Just as importantly, bilateral and regional negotiations
are clearly vital to post-September 11 U.S. geopolitical interests.
There is no need to detail the very obvious reasons for many of
the nations chosen to receive the benefit of U.S. bilateral and
regional attention, from key allies like Australia, to key targets
like Morocco. Singapore and Chile were ripe for quick success and
thereby established precedents for more difficult, but ultimately
more deeply beneficial agreements.
The progress that has been made in all trade negotiating fora, given
the meager prospects post-Seattle, is in large part attributable
to U.S. initiatives driven by the understanding that the September
11 attacks and the abiding presence of global terrorism demand a
dramatic, long-term, and positive economic response. This will help
to rebuild confidence in international relationships and to diminish
the opportunities for such tragedies in the future.
A. Kabak, C.