Office of the United States Trade Representative


Countering Terror with Trade

The Washington Post

By Robert B. Zoellick

America has been attacked by a malevolence that craves our panic, retreat and abdication of global leadership. This grave test of a generation's fiber is an assault on more than buildings and innocent people -- it is a strike against liberty itself. Our enemy's selection of targets -- the White House, the Pentagon and the World Trade Towers -- recognizes that America's might and light emanate from our political, military and economic vitality. Our counteroffensive must advance U.S. leadership across all these fronts.

Our nation has drawn together in shock, mourning and defiance. Now we must thrust forward the values that define us against our adversary: openness, peaceful exchange, democracy, the rule of law, compassion and tolerance. Economic strength -- at home and abroad -- is the foundation of America's hard and soft power. Earlier enemies learned that America is the arsenal of democracy; today's enemies will learn that America is the economic engine for freedom, opportunity and development. To that end, U.S. leadership in promoting the international economic and trading system is vital. Trade is about more than economic efficiency. It promotes the values at the heart of this protracted struggle.

Prior Americans recognized the role of economic ideas in overcoming international adversity. Congress granted Franklin D. Roosevelt the authority to employ free trade as a cure for the protectionism of the Great Depression and then to help Harry Truman revive a devastated world. Throughout the Cold War, Congress empowered presidents with trade negotiating authority to open markets, promote private enterprise and spur liberty around the world -- complementing U.S. alliances and strengthening our nation.

Congress now needs to send an unmistakable signal to the world that the United States is committed to global leadership of openness and understands that the staying power of our new coalition depends on economic growth and hope. In particular, Congress needs to complete action on the U.S. free trade agreement with Jordan, our first such commitment in the Arab world. It needs to put the finishing touches on our trade accord with Vietnam, a former foe that is recognizing that its future depends on markets, not Marxism. Congress also should reauthorize critical trade preference legislation for Andean democracies struggling against internal threats and for other developing nations relying on open markets to counter those who can destroy but not build. And most important, Congress needs to enact U.S. trade promotion authority so America can negotiate agreements that advance the causes of openness, development and growth. It is a sad irony that just as the old world of bipolar blocs faded into history and the new world of globalization fast-forwarded, the United States let its trade promotion authority lapse.

President Bush has been reestablishing American trade leadership by moving on multiple fronts: globally, regionally and with individual countries. In the wake of last week's attack, we affirmed our commitment. The United States is working to launch new negotiations to open markets at the World Trade Organization meeting in November. In the past few days, we acted to bring China and Taiwan into the WTO this year. Yesterday, President Bush met President Megawati Sukarnoputri of Indonesia to emphasize our support for the success of democracy in the largest Muslim country. Next week, I will go to Moscow to work on Russia's accession to the WTO. Before long, I will meet with African trade ministers to build new networks through the African Growth and Opportunity Act. We are pressing ahead with negotiations on a free trade area for all 34 democracies of the Americas. We are driving to complete free trade agreements with Chile and Singapore. New U.S. activism on trade has been drawing others toward us so we can pursue free trade in a way that fosters a new type of alliance for openness and fairness.

America is inextricably linked to the global economy. Trade and earnings on international investments now amount to one-third of our nation's output. Exports account for 25 percent of gross cash sales for America's farmers and ranchers -- a projected total of $ 57 billion for next year. The jobs of one out of every five U.S. manufacturing workers rely on exports. And the annual gains from our last major trade agreements -- the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Uruguay Round -- amount to between $ 1,300 and $ 2,000 for the average American family of four.

America cannot lead effectively if it slips in international markets. Yet the United States is a party to only two of the more than 130 free trade agreements in the world; the United States belongs to only one of the 30 free trade agreements in the Western Hemisphere. When multiplied across products and countries, the cost to America's strength -- and to workers, farmers and families -- of falling behind on trade soars exponentially.

America's trade leadership can build a coalition of countries that cherish liberty in all its aspects. Open markets are vital for developing nations, many of them fragile democracies that rely on the international economy to overcome poverty and create opportunity; we need answers for those who ask for economic hope to counter internal threats to our common values. To address the relationship between trade agreements and other international objectives, the president has proposed that we build on openness and growth in developing countries with a toolbox of cooperative policies. There is no "one size fits all" formula that can deal with environment, labor, health and other challenges. Other nations are more likely to work with us to improve local standards if our approach is positive, not intimidating. As former president Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico said, some supposed friends of the downtrodden "seem strangely determined to save the developing world from development." For certain, we should not deny the benefits of trade until we reach domestic consensus on global application of social policies.

We need to infuse our global leadership with a new sense of purpose and lasting resolve. Congress, working with the Bush administration, has an opportunity to shape history by raising the flag of American economic leadership. The terrorists deliberately chose the World Trade towers as their target. While their blow toppled the towers, it cannot and will not shake the foundation of world trade and freedom.

The writer is the 13th U.S. trade representative.
Copyright 2001 The Washington Post

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