President Bush claimed last night that his "administration is promoting free and fair trade, to open up new markets for America's entrepreneurs, and manufacturers, and farmers, and to create jobs for America's workers." But the president's actions on trade do not match his rhetoric:
- Most of the administration's success in pushing free trade agreements has been with small countries that have less ability to stand up to unfair US demands. Larger agreements, including with Australia, have been stalled over such unfair provisions. Costa Rica, the largest Central American economy opted out of the CAFTA agreement because of the US demands for opening up its markets, without any progress on agriculture. So much for fair trade.
- The trade agenda does not tackle the tough domestic challenges. The president's proposals on trade offer nothing on issues such as managing the economic transition of vulnerable sectors; striking the right balance on labor and environmental standards; and effectively addressing political opposition to trade. So much for helping manufacturers, farmers and the American workers.
Free and fair trade means balancing the interests of emerging economies and industrialized economies, and considering the interests of businesses and workers. A real agenda on trade requires a comprehensive approach that recognizes the need for durable growth in a global economy but upholds opportunities for workers and recognizes the need for sustainable, environmentally sound development.
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