- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 5, 2000

The collapse of the latest U.N. Conference of Parties (COP) on implementing the 1997 Kyoto "clean air" treaty occurred only about a week before the first anniversary of the raucous collapse of the World Trade Organization (WTO) ministerial conference in Seattle. These two events show that the supposed new era of harmonious globalization is not proceeding along the liberal lines envisioned by the Clinton administration.

The three-year effort which brought more than 170 nations to The Hague disintegrated when the United States and the European Union clashed over how to curb the release of so-called "greenhouse" gases. Germany, acting for several EU countries, rejected a final compromise it claimed would still have allowed the U.S. to escape much of its alleged responsibility as the world's biggest polluter.

The United States would have been compelled to curtail or offset pollutants from power plants and automobiles by 35 percent from projected levels in 2008, a radical reduction that would have required high taxes, economic stagnation and falling living standards all based on a most dubious set of assumptions about "global warming."

France's environment minister, Dominique Voynet, a member of the Green Party, said the antagonism between the U.S. and EU reflected a "cultural gap." The United States places too much faith in free-market methods, which he denounced as "the law of the jungle." Yet EU policy was born in a jungle of its own; that of global economic competition. Burdening American industry with more costs would have worked to the advantage of rival industries in Europe and elsewhere.

The COP conference showed the same attempt by the "world community" to gang up on the United States as had the WTO conference.

In Seattle, the central U.S. objective was to open overseas agricultural markets for its hard-pressed farmers. This ran into the issue of "food security" the fear of becoming dependent on food imports for survival. The EU led this fight, with the support of Japan, South Korea, China, and India. EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy claimed victory when the talks failed, citing how a strong anti-American coalition had been forged.

Yet, many of the same countries resisting the opening of their markets for farm products were among those making demands for the further opening of American markets for manufactured goods. Before the WTO talks opened, the Southeast Asian Council for Food Security and Fair Trade declared, "Liberalization in the North must not be accompanied by reciprocal concessions from the developing countries. Owing to their Special and Differential Status, the developing countries must have the discretion to decide whether or not to further liberalize their markets or even protect them for the common good." Thus, reciprocity and nondiscrimination, basic tenets of the world trading system as promoted by Washington, were thrown out the window.

The EU and Japan teamed up, both in Seattle and in suits filed since with the WTO in Geneva, to assail those American trade laws that are the nation's only defense against the predatory tactics frequently used by overseas rivals. China, though not a WTO member, had observer status in Seattle. Beijing threw its lot in with those whose WTO diplomacy is dedicated to maintaining unbalanced access to the American market. When China gains full membership, it can be expected to be an aggressive force in the anti-U.S. coalition at the WTO, as it has been in other international forums.

In such a contentious environment, the new administration will need to take a more realistic approach to international negotiations. Robert B. Zoellick, a top foreign policy and trade adviser to George W. Bush, has said in several forums that he wants the U.S. to pursue bilateral and regional trade agreements if they are necessary to break diplomatic "logjams" in the WTO. This shows promise, but it will only bear fruit if it is rooted in a very different view of the world than the naive liberalism of the Clinton administration.

The proper view is a conservative one that understands the world is as it has always been; an arena where nations compete for advantages and form coalitions to advance their own particular interests. Global institutions like the U.N. and the WTO foster combinations against the United States. More narrow and focused negotiations would allow Washington to better use its immense leverage as the world's largest economy and strongest political power to set more sensible agendas, hold the initiative and ensure net benefits for the American people when the ink dries.

William R. Hawkins is senior fellow for national security studies at the U.S. Business and Industry Council.

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