Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Clinton Connects Nafta, Prestige of U.S. in World Specter of Foreign Blocs Raised

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Clinton Connects Nafta, Prestige of U.S. in World Specter of Foreign Blocs Raised

Article excerpt

President Bill Clinton, in his fight to save the North American Free Trade Agreement, portrays the pact as insurance against the loss of American global pre-eminence.

"NAFTA is essential to our long-term ability to compete with Asia and Europe," he explained.

Less than two weeks before the Nov. 17 House vote that will decide the pact's fate, Clinton's administration is underlining the benefits of regional integration. Only if NAFTA joins the economies of the United States, Mexico and Canada through free trade, administration officials argue, can the Americas begin to stand up to increasingly integrated trading blocs elsewhere.

As the Cold War gives way to a world in which global rivals compete on the basis of market share, currency values, and wage and employment levels, many analysts see the emergence of three regional superblocs:

The Americas, extending from the northern reaches of Canada to the southern tip of Argentina.

Greater Europe, grouping the 12 European Community nations, countries that formerly made up the Soviet Union and its satellites, and previously nonaligned nations such as Austria and the Scandinavian bloc.

The Asia-Pacific bloc, taking in Japan, China, the "little dragons" - Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea - and the booming, resource-rich Southeast Asian nations of Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia.

Each bloc has a hub - Washington in the Americas, Tokyo in Asia and Bonn, Germany, in Europe. And each bloc provides its dominant nation with access to huge stores of low-cost labor, vast emerging consumer markets and rich troves of natural resources beyond its own border.

Increasingly, the other nations within each bloc are moving toward economic integration with the hub powers, as dollars, Deutsche marks and yen gain favor within the three regions.

"Regional trade and financial ties are growing, as are the political arrangements to manage them," Columbia University's Jeffrey E. …

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