Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Economic Council Needs More Study

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Economic Council Needs More Study

Article excerpt

PRESIDENT-ELECT Clinton has proposed that policymaking on international trade and economic issues be given greater weight in White House organization, possibly through the establishment of an Economic Security Council.

Administrations in the past have dealt with economic-policy making in various ways: through interagency committees at the cabinet and sub-cabinet levels, through the Council of Economic Advisers, and through special working groups for economic summits. None has been totally successful in integrating political and security concerns with economic interests. At least two problems have arisen when efforts were made to do so. How do you balance the multitude of domestic pressures and interests involved in such policymaking with foreign and diplomatic considerations? How do you determine what is political or strategic and what is economic? The answer to the latter question has been increasingly difficult. Is, for example, the promotion of democracy in the former states of the Soviet Union through greater aid, advice, and investment a political or an economic issue?

The president-elect appears to envision a counterpart to the National Security Council (NSC) structure, presumably involving an assistant to the president for economic security affairs and a staff. If that is what the new administration has in mind, it runs serious risks of complicating the policymaking machinery.

Such a plan would establish a bureaucratic unit interposed between major cabinet officers, such as the secretaries of treasury and commerce, and the president. The president would risk being isolated from officials whom foreign representatives regard as responsible for major policy advice.

Presumably, a new assistant to the president for economic security affairs would, like the NSC counterpart, not be subject to Senate confirmation. In an administration that wishes to cement a new relationship with the Congress, this could be a source of friction. The creation of another major unit within the executive office structure would run counter to Mr. Clinton's intention to cut the White House staff. It would also create a competitor for the president's time and attention with the high risk of open, politically damaging rivalry between the NSC staff and the Economic Security staff. …

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