- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 18, 2001

This weekends Summit of the Americas in Quebec, Canada, could quite appropriately be dubbed Summit Rosy Scenario. And of the 34 democratically elected leaders of the Americas that will be attending, President George W. Bush has proven he is one of the leading wishful thinkers.
Yesterday, Mr. Bush promised to "fight for the right" to establish a free trade area stretching from Alaska to Chile, adding: "I believe we can get it done" by the agreed upon deadline of 2005. Mr. Bush had initially proposed setting a 2003 deadline to establish the free-trade zone, but other leaders in the region believed that timetable was much too ambitious.
Although Mr. Bushs optimism is certainly encouraging, there are some weighty obstacles currently in the way of establishing a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). One of the most significant is fast-track negotiating authority for Mr. Bush, which would allow Congress to either approve or reject already negotiated free trade deals, but not change them. During his campaign, Mr. Bush said that the U.S. president that attended the Americas summit would look weak if he werent equipped with fast-track authority. But since he assumed the presidency, Mr. Bush has failed to formally request fast-track or even push forward the negotiating authority aggressively.
The White House has failed to even define how it will approach Democrats demands to have labor and environmental issues integrated into trade deals. "People are always trying to get me to put my cards on the table," Mr. Bush said obliquely Tuesday, when asked how he will handle these issues.
However, reaching a consensus among leaders of the Americas on government subsidies to the private sector will likely be the thorniest issue at the summit and the most difficult for Mr. Bush to address. Historically, the United States has pressed the emerging world to discontinue "dumping" its products, or selling them for less than what they cost to produce, in foreign markets to bolster their export sector. But thanks to the natural pressures of the marketplace, this dumping isnt sustainable without government subsidies. So these subsidies, rather than the practice of dumping, should be the practice addressed during trade talks.
But U.S. food producers currently benefit greatly from subsidies, which reportedly reached a record $22.1 billion last year. Latin American leaders, meanwhile, correctly insist that these U.S. subsidies, many of which are based on tax credits, give U.S. food producers an unfair trade advantage. So far, the White House has indicated it is unwilling to discontinue these subsidies. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick has said opening farm trade in just the Western Hemisphere would expose U.S. farmers to unfair competition from Europe.
Still, other sectors are eagerly endorsing the drive to establish free trade in the $13 trillion Western Hemisphere market that will encompass 34 countries and 800 million people. Archer Daniels Midland Co. and Citigroup Inc. to AT&T; Corp. and Alfa SA, Mexicos largest industrial group, are all lobbying in favor of FTAA.
And to be fair to Mr. Bush, he said yesterday he has met with more than 100 members of Congress to press for so-called fast-track trade authority. His efforts are certainly worthwhile, because without fast-track authority, this weekends Summit of the Americas will likely be little more than an opportunity for photo-ops.

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