November 26, 2002
U.S. to Seek to Abolish Many Tariffs
(EDMUND L. ANDREWS, November 26, 2002, NY Times)
The Bush administration, hoping to jump-start global trade negotiations, will propose a plan on Tuesday to eliminate all tariffs on industrial and consumer goods by 2015, officials said tonight.
The plan, which will be submitted to the World Trade Organization in Geneva, would cover not only big industrial products like cars and machinery but also labor-intensive consumer goods like clothing, textiles and leather handbags that are still fairly heavily protected in the United States.
Administration officials said their plan would "turn every corner store into a duty-free shop" and would eliminate about $18 billion in tariffs that American consumers pay each year.
Purists of course objected to the steel tariffs and the farm bill, but disposing of such issues and positioning himself as someone willing to protect U.S. interests has won the President a pliant Congress and given him huge leverage on the international stage to go for big coups like this one.
Posted by Orrin Judd at November 26, 2002 9:33 AM
What the Bush administration is proposing now, the US has been proposing for years, and been met with little enthusiasm. The fact is the developing countries largely export agricultural products and import manufactured goods, and so their special interests (producers are always more concentrated than consumers) want high manufactured-good tariffs and low agricultural tariffs. The US is offering the reverse, which is what its special interests want.
Don't get me wrong, I support the Bush initiative, but if they offered to throw in agricultural tariff reductions then they might get something done.
Another area in which the "purists" had also taken some umbrage, was the Administration's apparent preference for (or at least, equal consideration to) bilateral trade agreements (NAFTA and NAFTA clones) instead of the more (theoretically) efficient multilateral trade agreements (like WTO, GATT, etc). There was all this theory behind that...
Well, son of a bitch if one of the Administration's constructive critics, The Economist, does not have a brief in this week's edition citing some new provocative research that shows that bilateral trade agreements/concessions can give multilateral ones a good run for their money in terms fo driving economic growth. (They have yet to draw the Bush connection, but at some point they may.)
If our academic and media elite were honest, they would at least have to admit that this Admisnitration has substantially outperformed their predictions.
One approach that seems worth pursuing at this time is lowering our own barriers with key geo-strategic allies--Israel, Turkey, India, Taiwan, S. Korea, etc.--and holding out the prospect of trade deals with folks like N. Korea, Cuba and Iran if they change their regimes.
I think you are exactly correct here. The US should persue bilateral free trade agreements with specific nations as part our geo-political strategy, giving priority to those nations that are either (1) allies deserving of reward and (2) potential allies that whose economic recovery would most benefit the US. We must start thinking of trade agreements as weapons even more powerful than our JDAMs.
I agree with the bilateral approach, because it's the only effective one. And I agree that enhanced commercial links should be sought with key partners.
I sincerely doubt prospective trade would be an effective spur for people to rise up and overthrow Castro, Hussein and Kim Jong Il.
An I'd be wary of linking trade policy to geopolitical strategy in general since it would probably lead to every nation in the world lobbying the US for the extra trade benefits and those left out would be very irrritated by the lack of a level playing field.