Public opinion polls consistently demonstrate that, although the American public supports freer trade in theory, it often has profound reservations about trade liberalization in practice. This hesitancy is reflected in the narrow congressional majority that approved the creation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, the strenuous efforts by the Clinton administration and the business community that were required to ensure passage of legislation creating the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the massive demonstrations during the meetings of the world's trade ministers in Seattle in 1999. This report asserts that the only way to defuse the ongoing rancorous debate over future economic engagement with the world and to rebuild public trust in American trade policy is to craft a new process for trade decision-making that engages new actors in the dialogue. In short, Stokes and Choate argue that it is time to further democratize the trade policy-making process.
As the lives of more and more Americans are touched by the workings of the international economy, more and more people have a stake in the outcome of trade policy decisions. According to this report, they have a right to participate in crafting the policies that affect their interests. Indeed, no trade policy will be politically sustainable if it is not developed through an open, transparent process that accords all interested parties an opportunity for input.