How to Build Support for Trade?

How to Build Support for Trade?

January 8, 2003 11:44 am (EST)

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It Can’t be Done without Making the Process More Democratic

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and Giving More People a Stake in Globalization,

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Concludes New Paper From the Council on Foreign Relations

November 1, 2001 – The Washington trade policy process is in such disarray that even if the president gets new trade promotion authority and world leaders launch a new trade round, Americans will be denied the full benefits those actions are designed to deliver. This is a central finding of the new Council on Foreign Relations Paper Democratizing U.S. Trade Policy authored by Bruce Stokes, a Council Adjunct Senior Fellow, and Pat Choate, the 1996 Reform Party vice presidential candidate.

The paper explains that the national consensus on U.S. trade policy has broken down, and congressional support for unfettered free trade has unraveled. Debates on the streets of Seattle and on Capitol Hill demonstrate that future U.S. trade policy is now inextricably linked to labor, environment, food safety, and other issues, but how U.S. trade policymakers deal with these new concerns has not changed, the paper concludes.

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The inability to broker current differences is a damning indictment of status quo trade policymaking. Stokes and Choate argue that the only way to defuse this rancorous debate, to rebuild public trust in U.S. trade policy, and to bolster U.S. trade leverage abroad is by crafting a new trade decision-making process that gives more Americans a greater stake in global economic integration.

Democratizing U.S. Trade Policy calls for a greater role for Congress in trade policymaking, closer coordination of international regulatory and trade activities, the reform of the government’s trade advisory committees, and greater openness and accountability within the World Trade Organization.

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In particular, the study recommends:


  • Developing fast-track procedures to allow normal time limits for Senate debate on trade legislation. The 60 votes required to cut off such debate would insure that future trade deals have widespread political support.



  • Creating a Congressional Trade Office to analyze the economic, social, and environmental implications of trade policy and to serve as congressional observers in international trade negotiations.



  • Appointing Congressional Trade Advisers to assess whether trade negotiations are meeting the objectives set by Congress.



  • Launching a national dialogue on U.S. trade policy through town hall meetings and the Internet to solicit broader public input on proposed trade policy.



  • Granting greater public access to WTO documents and dispute settlement proceedings, and making transparency an objective in future multilateral, regional, and bilateral trade negotiations.



  • Applying the U.S. Administrative Procedures Act, the Freedom of Information Act, and the Government in the Sunshine Act to insure public input on trade negotiations that impact domestic regulatory issues.



  • Reforming the Trade Advisory Committee process in the executive branch through diverse private sector membership, jointly appointed by Congress, with agendas set by the committees.


Democratizing U.S. Trade Policy is the product of a bipartisan roundtable chaired by Representative Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz) and Representative Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), organized by the Council on Foreign Relations and the Congressional Economic Leadership Institute. It involved representatives of the business community, labor unions, environmental, consumer and human rights groups.

The views expressed are entirely those of authors and not of the Council on Foreign Relations or participants in the roundtable.

A copy of the complete paper is available on the Council on Foreign Relations website at /publication/4150/


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