Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Free Trade with the Americas Clinton's Role Crucial to Success of Upcoming Miami Summit

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Free Trade with the Americas Clinton's Role Crucial to Success of Upcoming Miami Summit

Article excerpt

LIKE most good parties, the success of the Summit of the Americas - the Dec. 9-11 gathering of 34 Western Hemisphere presidents and prime ministers in Miami - depends on its host, Bill Clinton. If successful, the summit has the potential to set the agenda of United States-Latin American relations for the foreseeable future.

To make this happen, President Clinton - in his opening address and throughout the two-day session - has to convey his commitment to a free-trading system that incorporates every country of the Americas. He has to assure them he will fight as vigorously for regional free trade as he did for NAFTA. He must also mobilize the support of every Latin American and Caribbean government. Without progress toward free trade, this summit, like its predecessor 27 years ago, will be forgotten.

Free trade is what the nations of Latin America thought the summit was about when it was announced by Vice President Al Gore Jr. in Mexico a year ago. Since then, however, the summit's purpose has become somewhat muddled, and expectations for a significant outcome have diminished. Mr. Clinton can make up for all this - by challenging the US Congress and every government at the summit to join with him in forging a hemisphere without barriers to trade or investment. And he should call for this to happen no later than 2005.

The president should make clear his intention to ask the new Republican Congress to grant him the fast-track authority he needs to negotiate new trade pacts in the hemisphere. And he should treat regional trade initiatives as bipartisan undertakings - by applauding President Bush for putting forth the vision of hemispheric free trade and initiating trade talks with Mexico, and by giving Republicans credit for providing the majority of votes to pass NAFTA and GATT. He could go even further by stating that NAFTA will be the model for dealing with labor and environmental issues, and that future trade negotiations won't incorporate stiffer provisions in these areas (which most Republicans and many in Latin America see as hidden protectionism).

Most Latin American and Caribbean governments say they want to participate in a hemispheric free-trade system, but many are concerned about how it would be created and at what pace. …

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