May 1, 2002 | News Releases on Foreign Aid and Development

Time to Go Beyond "Lip Service" on Free Trade, Analyst Says

WASHINGTON, May 1, 2002-U.S. trade policy has become increasingly protectionist over the last few years, and the president needs to start "walking the talk" in support of free trade and open markets, a new Heritage Foundation paper says.

"It's true that President Bush inherited a disappointing record on trade from his predecessor, but little has been done to improve that record," says Sara Fitzgerald, a trade policy analyst in Heritage's Center for International Trade and Economics. "His decision to raise tariffs on foreign steel is one more item on a laundry list of protectionist policies that are frustrating America's trading partners-and encouraging them to retaliate."

Fitzgerald also points out the harmful protectionism imbedded in the agriculture legislation being hashed out in Congress. The bill would greatly inflate subsidies for U.S. "agribusinesses," no doubt setting off a "farm-style 'arms race' of tariff and non-tariff trade barriers," she says.

America's free-trade message is further undermined by the high tariffs it slaps on textile imports and by the suspiciously high number of "antidumping" cases it has filed against foreign competitors for allegedly "flooding" the U.S. market with unfairly subsidized goods, Fitzgerald says. (More than 300 cases were brought in 2000.)

The Bush administration can take several steps to correct this, she says. For one, it can redouble its efforts to persuade Congress to restore Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), formerly known as "fast track," which would give trade officials a freer hand in negotiating deals with prospective trading partners. TPA passed the House of Representatives in December, but is now stalled in the Senate.

The administration also can complete the bilateral trade deals it's negotiating with Singapore and China and initiate new ones with other nations. And if lawmakers pass the bloated farm legislation they're now hammering out, President Bush should veto it, Fitzgerald says.

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