USTR Reiterates Commitment to Chile FTA
WASHINGTON, DC - US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick says he expects the U.S.-Chile Free Trade Agreement (FTA) will be signed by President Bush and sent to Congress for approval sometime by the end of the year.
"I believe this will get done this year," he said of the US-Chile pact during remarks during a recent conference on Free Trade Agreements sponsored by the Institute for International Economics (IIE).
Zoellick and Chilean Foreign Minister Soledad Alvear (left) announced the conclusion of the successful negotiations that led to the FTA last December in Washington.
Responding to a question on the status of the Chile FTA, Zoellick quoted from an e-mail message he received the previous evening from Bush, saying: "We've got an important free trade agreement with Chile that we're going to move forward with."
One day earlier, two Democratic members of Congress addressed the IIE conference and criticized the Administration for not having scheduled a signing ceremony for the Chile agreement, which was concluded towards the end of 2002. An FTA with Singapore, which was
negotiated at about the same time, was signed at the White House on May 6.
Representatives Cal Dooley (D-CA) and Sander Levin (D-MI) both suggested that the Bush administration had unwisely slowed action on the Chile agreement in response to Chile's unwillingness to support the US-led military action against Iraq.
"While trade policy ... cannot be carried out in isolation, other factors can be carried too far," Levin said the day after the US-Singapore FTA was signed. "I believe this has happened in the administration approach to continued delay of the Chile FTA."
For his part, Dooley said there was "growing unease" in Congress over the message the White House was sending internationally over the Chile agreement. To penalize Chile by delaying action on the trade pact "will only build resentment on trade -- and on a whole host of issues," Dooley said.
Responding to the moderator's suggestion that the White House was waiting to sign the Chile agreement until it was assured of sufficient support in Congress, Dooley said: "I don't think there will be much opposition in Congress and zero [opposition] from Republicans."
Zoellick, who devoted the bulk of his remarks to a lengthy list of factors that determine which countries are chosen as potential free-trade partners, said that "cooperation -- or better -- on foreign policy and security issues" is one of the criteria he considers. "Why shouldn't we try to encourage people to support our policies?" he asked.
Potential trade partners are also chosen on the basis of their "seriousness" in undertaking the reforms necessary to conclude an FTA, and their continued commitment to other trade liberalization efforts under way at the regional and multilateral levels, he said.
Last year, the US exported $3.1 billion worth of goods to Chile, with 413 California-based firms claiming a $283.3 million share of that total. More than 450 different products manufactured or produced in California were exported to Chile in 2002 including electronics, communications equipment, machine parts, color television receivers, auto aftermarket items, and paper and paperboard.
The US is currently holding free trade talks with Australia, Morocco, a bloc of five countries in Central America, and members of the Southern African Customs Union.
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