Trade Sure to Be Topic at Summits

By Nomura, Takehiko | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), February 23, 1996 | Go to article overview

Trade Sure to Be Topic at Summits


Nomura, Takehiko, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


With Pat Buchanan's assault on free trade, Republican presidential candidates hotly debated the issue in New Hampshire.

So when President Clinton meets with Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto today in Santa Monica, Calif., and in April in Tokyo, trade issues between the two countries are likely to surface in their discussions. Edward Hudgins, director of regulatory studies at the Cato Institute, acknowledges Mr. Buchanan's significant influence.

"Clinton can argue that he, after all, is the one who has [Commerce Secretary] Ron Brown running around the world, beating up on Japan and beating up on other countries," he said.

"He'll basically use the argument to say, `See, I'm strong on trade. I'm in favor of NAFTA and free trade, but I'm also in favor of going after those Japanese, those Chinese and so forth to try to get them to open markets.'

"I think he'll simply use that argument to try to counter Buchanan. Of course, I consider both arguments to be wrong."

Despite the report Monday that Japan's monthly trade surplus with the United States plunged more than 50 percent from a year earlier to $1.5 billion, administration officials reportedly pressured the Japanese government to make major progress on unresolved trade disputes before Mr. Clinton's visit to Tokyo.

"People in this country are getting increasingly fed up with one-way free trade that has led to huge, persistent trade deficits to the United States," said Lawrence Chimerine, managing director and chief economist of the Economic Strategy Institute.

Mr. Buchanan's protectionist stance has appealed to those disenchanted with their deteriorating working conditions because of the downsizing in major industries.

Despite Mr. Clinton's political oratory in his State of the Union speech - "Our economy is the healthiest it has been in three decades" - job losses have increased since the ratifications of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1993 and the accord in 1994 that created the World Trade Organization.

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