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Redefining the Terms of Trade Policymaking. (Book Brief).

With forwards by Senator Max Baucus, Chair, Senate Finance Committee and Congressman Amo Houghton, House Ways and Means Committee; and chapters by Ira Wolf (Office of Senator Baucus) and Paul Magnusson, trade correspondent for Business Week.

Senator Max Baucus, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, has written "We are at a critical juncture in trade policy. For fifty years, the United States led the way to open markets and trade liberalization. But this was possible only because there was a political consensus in favor of trade liberalization."

But that consensus will be difficult to rebuild. A growing number of Americans from the left and right are challenging the foundation on which trade liberalization rests--that freer trade is in the consumer, producer, and citizen interest. Moreover, many Americans prefer gridlock on trade to forward movement.

The National Policy Association, one of America's oldest think tanks, decided that the only way to find common ground on trade was to think differently about trade policymaking. A new book by Susan Aaronson, an NPA Senior Fellow, is designed to help policymakers improve trade policymaking. Each chapter reflects a problem discussed at trade seminars organized by NPA in Washington, from October 2000 to April 2001.

The trade seminars were an unusual approach to building a dialogue in Washington. They were sponsored by seventeen corporations (from Boeing to Viacom), four unions (such as the Communications Workers to the Food and Allied Services Trade, AFL-CIO), and five civil society groups (including the League of Women Voters and Friends of the Earth). These groups have widely different views about trade, but they share a belief that trade policymaking has become too contentious. These sponsors do not endorse or oppose the policy recommendations. They endorsed the process of trying to develop new ideas. The book deals with trade agreements; how the Executive Branch and Congress can build a partnership on trade policymaking; ways to reorganize the U.S. government to make trade policy and communicate with the American public about trade agreements.

Among the book's recommendations:

On the scope of trade agreements, there is no one model. Policymakers should develop different approaches to or models for trade agreements that accommodate different objectives, trading partners, and government policies.

Policymakers should limit their reliance on trade agreements to achieve nontrade goals. At the same time, they should work hard to ensure that trade agreements promote, rather than undermine, the achievement of other important policy goals such as conserving the environment, preserving peace, or promoting human rights.

On Trade Promotion Authority ("Fast Track") for the President, Congress and the Executive Branch should develop a new approach to trade policymaking in which changes in strategy (fasttrack/TPA) are traded for changes in structure that allow greater Congressional review of trade negotiations. Thus, Congress should grant permanent authority to the Executive to negotiate trade agreements. In return the Executive should support the creation of a Congressional trade office.

On the advisory committee process, USTR should propose legislation that will empower it to seek advice not just from U.S. commercial and economic interests but also from consumer, environmental, public health, and other broad national interests. Right now, these perspectives are acknowledged, but they have little influence.

For more information on book, see NPA's website
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Author:Aaronson, Susan Ariel
Publication:The International Economy
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 1, 2001
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