Future Visions for U.S Trade Policy: Council Presents Major Alternatives

September 16, 1998

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May 11, 1998 - With fast-track trade authority sidetracked, at least for now, experts believe it is time to take a hard look at the alternatives in order to sustain momentum for increasing world trade. In a short volume published by the Council on Foreign Relations, entitled Future Visions for U.S. Trade Policy, the experts cite three ways out of the deadlock: (1) provide new presidential leadership to gain some support for regional and multilateral trade liberalization; (2) pause strategically to develop a better way of dealing with the inevitable challenges of globalization (for example, displaced workers, the U.S. trade deficit, the environment, and workers’ rights); or (3) accept the elimination of fast track and make Capitol Hill more responsible and thus accountable for trade policy.

For more than 30 years, the fast-track system of trade policy worked reasonably well. Congress granted presidents negotiating authority while retaining the right to a simple up or down vote on all trade agreements. After the Congressional decision not to grant the White House this kind of leeway, the Council chose to look at strategic alternatives for the future.

To examine the trade issue and present alternatives, the Council identified experts with diverse perspectives: C. Fred Bergsten of the Institute for International Economics, William Niskanen of the Cato Institute, Jeff Faux of the Economic Policy Institute, and Pat Choate, the 1996 Reform Party vice presidential candidate. Bruce Stokes, Council Senior Fellow and Director of Trade Programs, directed the project.

This volume is the second in a series of Council Policy Initiatives (CPI). The first CPI subject was U.S. defense policy. CPIs were created in 1997 to encourage interested Americans to debate key international issues. The Council does this by identifying a major issue that would benefit from public debate and then by presenting policy alternatives in a way the interested public can understand. The alternatives are published in a volume containing the memorandums, a cover memo as if written by a key presidential adviser, and relevant background materials.

The Council takes no institutional position on the CPI subjects. The aim is to make the best case for each alternative.

To get a copy of Future Visions for U.S. Trade Policy, visit the Council web site, at www.foreignrelations.org or call 1 (212) 434-9537.

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