Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Trade Pact's Troubles Fill European Critics with Glee

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Trade Pact's Troubles Fill European Critics with Glee

Article excerpt

PARIS _ Economic protectionists in Europe are watching with undisguised glee as the controversial North American Free Trade Agreement heads for trouble in the U.S. Congress.

The increasingly vocal critics of freer worldwide trade believe the downfall of the plan to create an open market between Mexico, Canada and the United States would have explosive repercussions well beyond North America.

As they see it, congressional rejection of the NAFTA legislation would destroy the U.S. government's credibility as a champion of liberalized and expanded world trade.

NAFTA's demise would also furnish an excuse for the European Community and other trading blocs to pile the bricks higher on their own protective walls against so-called "socially unfair" competition _ that is, the flow of goods from areas where workers' wages and social security benefits are much lower than in the older industrial countries.

The hot fight in the United States over NAFTA comes just as the long and bitter battle over a new global trade agreement appears to have entered its final phase.

The timing couldn't be worse, according to worried pro-free traders like Michael Timson, an adviser to the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

If NAFTA gets axed, Timson says, France will intensify its already strong campaign against the worldwide General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).

The French may seek recruits among other nations that all along have had significant reservations about the accord, but hesitated to express them, at least partly from fear of offending America.

Timson explains that "most of the momentum to achieve a new world trade pact has come from the United States. Without Washington's intense pressure, the whole thing probably would have gone up in smoke long ago. …

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