After its victory, Team Bush resumes its crusade for free trade

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Translated by Anoosha Boralessa (December 2015). Not reviewed by bilaterals.org or any other organization or person.

Agence France Presse | 7 November 2004

After its victory, Team Bush resumes its crusade for free trade

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Reassured by the renewed confidence of the American voters,
President George W. Bush is going to pursue, even accelerate his free trade strategy in next four years by giving special support to bilateral agreements – so say the experts.

"Americans continue to support free and fair trade”, emphasized John Murphy, the Vice President for International Business at the US Chamber of Commerce.

The experts we interviewed think that Washington will push for an agreement in the Doha Round of the World Trade Organization (the WTO) and will also pursue the bilateral free trade agreement front.

"John Kerry has tried to create stiff opposition to Bush by declaring that Bush was far too much of a free trade zealot", adds Mr. Murphy. This expert considers "this dog has barked but has not bitten ". He notes that "on a final analysis, the number of voters motivated by protectionist calls (from the opposition) seems less important than what was thought".

The protectionist measures put in place by the first Bush administration to support the US iron and steel industry, ended in a WTO ruling and heavy sanctions by its large trade partners.

"It is difficult to say that the US is going to invoke a tough protectionist policy when we have to face up to a trade deficit of almost 600 billion dollars ", noted Jeffrey Schott, an expert from the Institute for International Economics.

He recalled that according to the rule implicit in the history of trade, one accepts three measures of liberalization and one reserves the option of applying a protectionist measure. His view was:
“This safeguard clause was hugely important in most industrialized countries to accept freeing up their trade barriers in Europe and in the United States",

Washington had recently announced plans to limit an increase in the importation of Chinese textiles, fearing a massive influx the following year with the quota increases. This type of protection is provided under China’s accession agreement to the WTO.

Besides, faced with the paralysis of the WTO negotiations, this year Washington has multiplied the bilateral free trade agreements it signed with five Central American countries, the Dominican Republic, Australia, Morocco and Bahrain. Another 15 files (dossiers) are being prepared that include Southern Africa states and Thailand.

It should be easy for the agreement with Central America to get the green light from Congress as the Republican majority, both in the House and the Senate, has been bolstered.

The masterpiece of George W. Bush’s plans for trade liberalization lies in the creation of a Free Trade Area of the Americas, a vast area, free of trade barriers stretching from Alaska to the Terre de Feu, representing a market of 13,000 billion dollars and 800 million consumers as the services of the US Trade Representative, Robert Zoellick repeat.

The realization of this ambitious objective that Washington hopes to achieve in 2005, stumbles principally on the reticence of Brazil.

Finally, the task could be more difficult if the rumours of the departure of the chief artisan of the free trade agreements, Robert Zoellick are confirmed to be true.

"Washington is very much engaged in the game of rumours and speculations, but it is a game that we are not playing ", affirmed his spokesperson, Richard Mills, to AFP.

The name of Mr. Zoellick has been cited as the new Treasury Secretary, the next Chairman of the World Bank. James Wolfensohn’s mandate expires next June.

source: AFP