Zoellick Sees Need for Global Trade Talks

Article excerpt

Byline: Carter Dougherty

The Bush administration will seek a new round of global negotiations this fall that will aim to tear down barriers to international trade in farm products and services, U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick said in an interview.

Nations are trying to erase what Mr. Zoellick calls "the stain of Seattle," a reference to the chaotic attempt by members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) to begin talks in the Pacific Northwest city in 1999. This year, WTO members are headed for the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar from Nov. 9 to 13 to resuscitate international negotiations.

Before he gets to Qatar, Mr. Zoellick will ask Congress to approve trade promotion authority, which allows the president to cut trade deals and submit them to Congress for an up-or-down vote, without amendments. This authority, also known as fast-track, was used to win approval of the Uruguay round of negotiations in 1994, and is needed again, he said.

The world, Mr. Zoellick says, is watching intently.

"We're developing credibility, but other countries want to know whether Congress will back the administration as we move forward," he said.

Laying aside the delicate task of persuading Congress to pass fast-track, Mr. Zoellick will have his hands full in trying to hammer out a compromise deal among the 141 members of the WTO, each of whom has an equal say in plans for new negotiations.

Mr. Zoellick is a State Department veteran who helped assemble the Persian Gulf war coalition in 1990 and 1991. His current task is similar to that one, but without the benefit of a U.N.-style Security Council that has a small membership able to implement important decisions, a senior administration official said.

The complex diplomatic maneuvering has brought a seemingly endless parade of foreign trade officials through Mr. Zoellick's office.

This past week, his office said, Mr. Zoellick wrapped up a particular focus on Africa by meeting or speaking with senior officials from Kenya, Mauritius and Lesotho. …