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JORDAN - Apr. 10 - US May Revise Trade Pact.

With King Abdullah visiting the White House (see Arab-US Relations), US officials say Pres. Bush may revise the free trade agreement. (Trade between the two countries is tiny, in relative terms. The US sells Jordan less than $300m in goods each year. But the deal reached with the Clinton administration, which would eliminate all tariffs on trade, is significant beyond the numbers. It is the first American trade initiative that included labour and environmental standards as part of the main text, putting the rights of workers and the duty of companies not to pollute on the same plane with tariffs. King Abdullah signed the agreement at a White House ceremony last October, as the Clinton administration was coming to a close. During the presidential campaign, Al Gore praised the labour and environmental agreements in the Jordan deal, but Bush expressed reservations.

It is not without precedent for a new administration to reopen a trade agreement signed by a predecessor. Bush's father signed the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, with Canada and Mexico in the closing weeks of his administration. His successor, Clinton, pursued side agreements to address concerns of labour unions and environmental groups. In a meeting much like the one that Bush held on Apr. 10 with King Abdullah, Clinton reassured Pres. Carlos Salinas of Mexico in 1993 that the US would pursue NAFTA but only after additional negotiations. In a brief appearance with reporters on Apr. 10 Bush did not detail his reservations about the deal reached by Clinton. But officials indicated the White House was concerned about the precedent that the labour and environmental agreements might have on future trade agreements. The officials said that Robert Zoellick, Bush's trade representative, was pursuing a compromise. Not everybody believes the deal struck by Clinton requires change. "This agreement is good, as is", said Mike Siegel, a spokesman for Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana.
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Publication:APS Diplomat Recorder
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 14, 2001
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