Magazine article USA TODAY

U.S. on Dangerous Protectionist Path

Magazine article USA TODAY

U.S. on Dangerous Protectionist Path

Article excerpt

U.S. trade policy would shock Americans if it were possible for them to understand it, according to Stanford University economist Anne O. Krueger. The North American Free Trade Agreement is 2,000 pages long. When it is combined with other agreements, administrative rules, and regulations, the nation's trade policy is "almost inherently unknowable in its aggregate," she maintains.

Krueger, former chief research economist for the World Bank, believes the U.S. is headed for economic, and possibly political, trouble if it continues to add regional trade agreements that are inconsistent with one another and with worldwide free trade. Since NAFTA was passed by Congress in late 1993, "every action or speech [made by U.S. policymakers] has been bilateral or regional," rather than supportive of multilateral, international free trade. "We advocated a new international trade organization in the GATT [General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade] talks. We fought for it, but there has been no support for it since."

Krueger says she backs regional trade agreements if they are consistent with multilateral free trade. Regional agreements are not inconsistent if they provide for more economic integration of national economies, "But we are now on the path of forming separate or side agreements with Chile, Canada, and Mexico, and that becomes dangerous. We now have a U.S.-Canada commission [to settle trade disputes] and we are going to have a U.S.-Mexico commission. What happens when they come to different decisions?" If the U.S. proceeds to a third agreement with Chile, "we will very quickly have [expanded] what is already an incredibly litigious system."

The nations the U.S. has prodded into supporting free trade since World War 11 are starting to recognize the growing gap between American actions and words, she points out. At least four are considering anti-dumping legislation modeled after the U. …

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