- The Washington Times - Friday, November 24, 2000

Whole world watching

Members of Congress are beginning to worry about the impact of the deadlocked presidential election on America's image abroad.

Rep. Christopher Cox, for one, is trying to reassure foreign leaders that the United States is following the rule of law as it struggles with repeated vote counts in Florida.

Although the electoral morass has become the stuff of ridicule in the foreign press, the California Republican sees no humor in the contested election.

"How the United States handles the close presidential election is a vital signal to the world about the viability of representative democracy," Mr. Cox, chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee, said in a statement.

"Congress, operating under the Constitution and the rule of law, will ensure that the 43rd president of the world's oldest constitutional democracy is chosen in the legal and constitutional manner prescribed by law.

"The world will once again be able to look to the United States as the beacon of freedom and liberty it must remain."

Mr. Cox, whose statement was directed toward foreign observers, explained the U.S. preference for the Electoral College over the direct election of a president.

"The Electoral College vote insures not only that a president wins the popular vote in each state that he or she carries, but also that his or her support is not unduly regional but rather broad based throughout the country," he said.

"The Electoral College requires candidates to assemble truly nationwide majorities on a state-by-state basis instead of focusing on what today we would call major media markets."

Mr. Cox is a member of the Government Reform and Oversight Committee and chaired a Republican commission that in September released a critical report on the Clinton administration's policy toward Russia.

Aiming for 'big powers'

Former French Premier Michel Rocard, in his effort to control the illegal global market of small arms, is taking aim at some "big powers" that he accuses of trying to weaken the initiative.

Mr. Rocard, in a telephone interview with reporters in Washington, listed the United States, Russia, China, Egypt, Algeria, India and Israel as the leading countries advocating limits on proposals to track the sale of handguns, assault rifles and other light weapons that fuel many of the world's conflicts.

Mr. Rocard said "parochial big-power interests impede the preparatory process" of a conference on small arms planned next year by the United Nations.

Those countries want to restrict controls to the illegal sale of weapons, while Mr. Rocard, co-chairman of the Eminent Persons' Group on the Smalls Arms, supports controls to track the legal sale of weapons because many of them end up on the black market.

Mexico No. 2

Mexico has become the United States' second-largest trading partner and credits the success to the North American Free Trade Agreement.

"This thriving trade relationship has contributed to the outstanding economic growth of the NAFTA region," the Mexican Embassy said this week.

Canada, the third partner in NAFTA, remains the top U.S. partner with about $1 billion of trade crossing the border each day.

Mexico-U.S. trade reached $22.1 billion in September, a 25 percent increase over the comparable period last year, according to statistics released this week by the U.S. Commerce Department.

Thanksgiving briefing

Some diplomatic reporters must have taken their Thanksgiving holiday a day early.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher looked over the briefing room yesterday and jokingly noted the lack of a quorum.

"OK, we have two wires, a TV and a newspaper. That's enough to go for it, right?" he said.

"It's the day before Thanksgiving," one reporter responded.

"It's really not a quorum," another said.

Mr. Boucher said he did not expect many reporters to attend the briefing because Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright spoke earlier in the day.

"The secretary has said the most important things for the day, as she usually does," he noted.

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