On One Issue, the World Really Likes Bush

By Francis, David R. | The Christian Science Monitor, December 2, 2004 | Go to article overview

On One Issue, the World Really Likes Bush


Francis, David R., The Christian Science Monitor


Cowboy diplomacy. Unilateralism. Foreign governments have sharply criticized President Bush's foreign policy in many ways. But on one issue, international trade, you could almost hear a collective sigh of relief over his reelection.

Because of the administration's strong commitment to free trade, the United States looks ready to push for even more international agreements that trim barriers to commerce.

The first tests of Mr. Bush's second-term outlook will come shortly as he makes decisions on two key issues: world trade talks and import quotas on clothing. These decisions will help shape commercial relations with other nations in the years ahead.

Of course, the president's free-trade rhetoric has always been strong. He has concluded trade agreements with 12 countries and is negotiating with 12 more. But he has made some protectionist moves, such as helping the steel industry early in his first term and imposing barriers on Canadian lumber.

Looking ahead, observers expect no substantial changes in White House policy. "Most likely Bush will order a 'review' of present trade tactics and strategies and seek a shift in priorities from international negotiations to consensus building with Congress on trade and currency policy," states Harald Malmgren, a veteran trade economist in Washington.

One of his first major decisions: what to do with a worldwide system of quotas on textile and clothing imports, which expires Jan. 1. It involves 700,000 US workers, largely in Southern states that supported Bush's reelection. The quotas also affect 2.7 million workers in Europe, and millions more in dozens of developing countries. The great concern is that China, with its cheap labor and market power, will capture most of the world's textile business, wiping out jobs and businesses in many other nations, including the US.

A coalition of American textile trade associations and the industry's labor union has filed nine "safeguard petitions" with the administration that seek to limit the growth in imports of various garments (trousers, knit shirts, underwear, sheets, and so on) and yarns from China to 7.5 percent in 2005. The industry suspects that early in the new year Bush will decide whether to accept the petitions and launch talks with China for restraint on its textile exports.

In categories where quotas were removed, the Chinese share of the market has risen from an average 9 percent to 72 percent in short order, notes Robert DuPree, a vice president of the National Council of Textile Organizations. …

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