- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 2, 2002

The Bush administration has started negotiations on a complex mix of global, regional and bilateral free-trade agreements that mark the most ambitious international economic agenda since the passage of the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement.
In a speech at the National Press Club yesterday, U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick said that the administration will use the negotiating authority it won from Congress in August to pursue four free-trade pacts with 13 countries.
The authority, known as "fast track," will allow President Bush to conclude free-trade accords and submit them to Congress for an up-or-down vote with no amendments.
"Our idea is to create a web of mutually reinforcing trade agreements in which success in one can be translated into progress elsewhere," Mr. Zoellick said. "Working on multiple fronts enables us to create a competition in liberalization, with the United States as a nucleus for the network."
Mr. Zoellick said the United States will wrap up talks, delayed until Congress approved fast track, with Chile and Singapore by the end of the year.
Negotiations with five Central American countries Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Panama are also under way, he said.
Negotiations for a free-trade agreement with the Southern African Customs Union, which includes South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Swaziland and Botswana, will begin shortly, he said.
Mr. Zoellick also highlighted the administration's plans to strike a free-trade deal with Morocco, which would be the second with an Arab country after Jordan, which signed a similar pact with the United States under the Clinton administration.
"Morocco was one of the first countries to condemn the September 11 terrorist attacks against the United States," Mr. Zoellick said. "It has stood by our side ever since."
The administration is betting that the web of agreements between the United States and indvidual groups of countries will boost the prospects both for a massive Free Trade Area of the Americas pact covering the Western Hemisphere from Canada to Argentina and for talks in the 134-member World Trade Organization.
This strategy is based on the belief that slow-moving participants in the hemispheric and global talks will speed up once they see the United States cut special deals with nations that move quickly.

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