- The Washington Times - Friday, August 31, 2001

Will the real liberal position on U.S. foreign policy please stand up? I'm trying to figure it out, but given the inconsistencies, I might as well work on something less confusing — like reading "The Iliad" in the original Greek.
Here's what I have so far: Liberals such as Senate Majority Leader Thomas A. Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, and House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, Missouri Democrat, are worried that President Bush's "unilateralist approach" to missile defense and other issues will upset our allies and our enemies and "isolate us from the world," as Mr. Gephardt told the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "We can go it alone … or we can continue our successful engagement with Europe and the world," he warned.
Added Mr. Daschle, in a speech to the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars: "Instead of asserting our leadership, we are abdicating it."
Their remedy? That the United States embrace six international agreements, including the potentially disastrous Kyoto accords on global warming and a measure to create an international criminal court.
Mr. Daschle and Mr. Gephardt support these measures despite their well-documented flaws and their fundamental unfairness to the United States.
For example, the Kyoto agreement would force the United States to make deep cuts in our "greenhouse gas" emissions but would exempt Brazil, India and China, three of the world's leading polluters. (The level of hypocrisy here is astounding: Mr. Daschle knows Kyoto is unratifiable — he's one of 95 senators who voted for a 1997 resolution stating that we would not accept a version that exempted developing nations and would cause economic hardship at home.)
The proposed international court, which would allow U.S. soldiers to be jailed on trumped-up, politically motivated war crimes charges, is just as bad.
But here's what throws me: If liberals are so determined to keep the United States from turning isolationist, why aren't they just as anxious for the president to pursue a vigorous free trade agenda? On that issue, their impression of Teddy Roosevelt charging up San Juan Hill suddenly disappears. We see Mr. Bush repeatedly asking Congress to give him Trade Promotion
Authority (TPA, formerly known as "fast track") to negotiate trade deals — and repeatedly being rebuffed.
The president wants TPA because he knows that other nations are reluctant to enter into trade pacts with the United States if they know Congress can, at a later date, load up the agreements with unwanted "amendments." With TPA, our lawmakers can either approve a pact or reject it — but they can't rewrite it.
There's nothing new or unusual about TPA. Presidents — both Republican and Democratic — held this authority from 1974 until 1994. Today, most all of the world's other leaders still enjoy this authority. So why are many liberals, who endorse "engagement" on other issues, prepared to let us stand alone when it comes to free trade?
Today, there are 130 preferential trade and investment agreements among various nations. The United States is party to only two of them. While congressional liberals deny the president the ability to negotiate up-or-down trade deals, the rest of the world has marched forward and left us behind. Chile, for example, now trades more with Canada than with us, simply because we have no agreement with Chile.
But giving the president TPA is about more than keeping up appearances. It's about money — money that could be in the pockets of Americans. The United States had an agricultural trade surplus of $12 billion with the rest of the world last year. Texas alone increased its exports by $13.4 billion from 1993 to 1998, thanks to North American Free Trade Agreement. Think how much bigger the wealth pie would be if the United States could trade freely with more countries.
We may never know. A new round of World Trade Organization talks is scheduled for November in the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar. But without TPA, the United States won't be able to lead the talks as it should. That's hardly the way for us to "assert our leadership" or "continue our successful engagement" with the world.
If liberals truly want the United States to exert meaningful leadership, they need to give Mr. Bush the Trade Promotion Authority. If they continue to balk, we'll know their rhetoric has nothing to do with leadership concerns — and everything to do with politics.

Edwin Feulner is president of the Heritage Foundation.


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