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Transition 2008: Advising America's Next President: Rethinking Trade Policy

Panelists: Edward Alden, Bernard L. Schwartz Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations
David Backus, Heinz Riehl Professor Chair of NYU Stern's Department of Economics
Anna Szterenfeld, Latin America editor for Economist Intelligence Unit
Moderator: Jonathan Eaton, Economics Professor at NYU's Stern Business School
December 8, 2008

It's time to chart a new course in U.S. trade policy, experts agreed at this December 2 meeting, the final panel discussion in a series on the presidential transition co-hosted by CFR, the Economist, and New York University's Stern School of Business.

The event's panelists contended that rethinking trade policy doesn't mean plowing ahead with new bilateral agreements. Instead, said CFR's Edward Alden, the United States should take a "strategic pause" to reexamine priorities, strengthen relationships with trading partners, and focus on actively participating in the World Trade Organization's Doha Round rather than on seeking new bilateral agreements.

NYU economics professor David Backus argued that given the developed state of the U.S. economy, more trade is unlikely to result in significant gains. Unlike the economies of Mexico, China, or India, Backus said, the U.S. economy is not undergoing transformation; rather, it's in need of repair. The Economist's Anna Szterenfeld suggested that, instead of increasing trade, the incoming Obama administration should reenvision trade as "part and parcel of a comprehensive agenda" and thereby repair and strengthen diplomatic relations.


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