- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 27, 2002

The Bush administration yesterday called on nations around the world to eliminate tariffs on all nonagricultural goods.
The proposal, touted as a potential $18 billion per year tax cut for U.S. consumers, lays out the U.S. agenda for ongoing talks at the World Trade Organization.
The WTO's 144 members are struggling to reach a consensus on new trade rules as part of the Doha Development Agenda, begun last year. U.S. negotiators plan to present their proposal next week at the WTO's headquarters in Geneva.
If the members agree to the U.S. proposal, about $670 billion in U.S. exports would become duty free by 2015. Items such as shoes, toys, medical equipment and electronics would face no fees when entering a foreign market.
The proposal, outlined by Commerce Secretary Donald L. Evans and U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick, sees tariffs on industrial and consumer goods falling in two steps.
Between 2005 and 2010, all tariffs now at or below 5 percent would drop to zero; certain highly traded goods would see tariffs fall to zero; and all other tariffs would slide below 8 percent by 2010.
The next step would have remaining tariffs eliminated by 2015.
"Our proposal would turn every corner store in America into a duty-free shop for working families," Mr. Zoellick said.
The average family of four would save $1,600 per year from the elimination of fees that are charged when foreign products enter the United States, he said.
The United States' trade envoy said the plan would benefit all trading partners, including developing countries.
But the plan is being met cautiously by other countries and is likely to meet resistance from developing countries.
"The U.S. proposal sounds ambitious, even radical, but [its] difficult to say how realistic it is if developing countries are not all that enthusiastic or prepared to lose all revenue from tariffs," said a European Union source in Washington.
The source, who asked not to be named, said that moving the trade talks forward is critical to the global economy, and that the 15-nation European Union welcomes American ideas.
Europe earlier this month proposed cutting tariffs on manufactured goods instead of eliminating them entirely.
Developing countries, such as Brazil and India, protect domestic industries and raise revenue with relatively high tariffs.
In India, for example, textile and apparel tariffs are around 40 percent, while the U.S. figure is closer to 10 percent.
Mr. Zoellick said U.S. industrial tariffs average 4 percent, while worldwide industrial tariffs average 40 percent.
He said the Bush administration would push ahead with its free-trade agenda even with objections from individual countries. Whether or not global talks advance, the United States will work on regional and bilateral deals.
"We're going to do it, one way or another," he said.
Since WTO members began the new round of talks last year, the United States has made proposals that would liberalize global trade in services, eliminate export subsidies on agricultural products, lower agricultural tariffs, and make WTO decision-making more transparent.
But the United States has slapped high tariffs on steel products and introduced a new set of agricultural subsidies, annoying some trade partners.


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