- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 5, 2001

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan yesterday offered a ringing endorsement of American leadership in the worldwide effort to tear down trade barriers, a major priority of the Bush administration.

As President Bush prepares for a meeting of leaders from North and South America April 20-21 in Quebec that will decide the future of a hemispheric free-trade pact, the Fed chairman urged lawmakers not to raise obstacles to trade during the economic slowdown.

"The United States has been in the forefront of the postwar opening up of international markets, much to our and the rest of the world's benefits," Mr. Greenspan told the Senate Finance Committee. "It would be a great tragedy were that process stopped or reversed.

"There is no question in my mind that as the economy slows we must accelerate our endeavors toward free trade," Mr. Greenspan said.

Free-trade advocates in the Bush administration and Congress are highlighting Mr. Greenspan's message in an effort to strengthen public support for new agreements.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick hopes to bolster awareness of trade issues through public outreach and by meeting with members of Congress.

Mr. Bush met with congressional leaders at the White House on Monday in an effort to demonstrate to Latin American leaders he would make trade issues a priority.

A perception that the Clinton administration had abandoned the United States' traditional leadership role on trade led to widespread skepticism in Latin America.

The Fed chairman, who has frequently spoken about the benefits of trade, last year endorsed a landmark pact with China during a Rose Garden event with President Clinton, helping the White House to win a contentious debate over its approval.

Mr. Greenspan endorsed the administration's request, made in Mr. Bush's first address to Congress, for approval of "fast-track" negotiating authority. This legislation permits the president to cut trade deals and then submit them to Congress for an up-or-down vote, without amendments.

"If the party on the other side of the table knows that the particular agreement is subject to a wide variety of potential amendments from a lot of different sources, he very clearly will be very reticent to put his final set of cards on the table," Mr. Greenspan said.

Congress refused to renew negotiating authority in 1997 amid a rancorous debate between Republicans and Democrats over whether trade agreements should include rules on labor and environmental standards. Democrats, supported by green groups and unions, have argued that trade deals can be used to boost standards overseas.

Mr. Greenspan expressed support for the Republican position that the United States should not use trade sanctions to pressure other countries on labor and environmental policies.

Mr. Zoellick, recognizing that the administration will need Democratic votes to pass fast-track, has offered to develop a "toolbox" of options to improve labor and environmental standards overseas without imposing trade sanctions.

Mr. Greenspan's testimony hammered away at an orthodox interpretation of how open trade and investment promote competition and productivity.

He said the United States should not fear lower trade barriers, even if other countries do not immediately follow suit.

"If trade barriers are lowered by both parties, each clearly benefits," Mr. Greenspan said. "In almost every credible scenario, if one lowers barriers and the other does not, the country that lowered barriers unilaterally would still be better off having done so."

Mr. Greenspan said developing countries "need more globalization, not less" to help raise living standards.

The Fed chairman also took aim at "trade remedy" laws administrative procedures with broad support in Congress that allow import curbs for American companies that can show their foreign competitors receive government subsidies or "dump" products at below cost in the U.S. market.

"These forms of protection have often been imposed under the label of promoting 'fair trade,' but oftentimes they are just simple guises for inhibiting competition," he said.

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