Info Service on Trade and WTO Issues (July08/15)
President Bush and
In the months leading to Fast Track's termination, US and WTO officials warned that a WTO breakthrough had to be agreed before Bush lost authority. When the deadline passed, they changed their tune to try to keep talks alive. Yet, the US Constitution grants Congress exclusive authority "to regulate commerce with foreign nations" and to "lay and collect taxes [and] duties."
means that while a president may negotiate, the
There is zero chance that Congress will provide President Bush new Fast Track authority. The congressional leadership has explicitly stated in writing that it will not support further Fast Track for Bush. Indeed, Bush abused his past Fast Track authority to such a degree that this April, Congress reasserted its constitutional authority, and took action to remove residual Fast Track authority that applied to a Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) signed before Fast Track expired.
Even if Congress were inclined to give Bush new Fast Track, only twenty-four working days remain before adjournment on September 26. Congressional leaders have repeatedly stated that there will be no post election "lame duck" session. Business will resume in January 2009, with a new Congress and president.
at this juncture, US positions in the Doha Round negotiations cannot
be relied upon to represent what is politically viable in Congress.
Bush is desperate to repair his woeful legacy by being able to announce
Some have falsely compared the current situation to the first President Bush's handling of Uruguay Round talks in 1992. In contrast to his son, Bush I had Fast Track authority when he agreed to the Blair House agriculture deal. President Clinton arrived in office under the same Fast Track delegation and thus proceeded with an additional year of negotiations to reach a deal in November 1993 which was passed by Congress under Fast Track in 1994.
making concessions now, relying on Bush administration promises, will
almost certainly face additional or different demands from a new president,
who will be responsible for ensuring a deal can actually get through
Congress. The Bush administration's legacy-not-viability approach is
precisely what occurred a year ago in regards to a trade pact with
unreliability of Bush administration representations is most obvious
regarding agriculture. US negotiators are making offers that directly
conflict with the recent US Farm Bill. Bush officials in
the new Farm Bill sets
Given this, it is worth noting not only the recent Farm Bill, but also that many Republican senators (who might otherwise support a deal that favoured corporate interests), have joined Democrats regarding certain anti-dumping rules, as well as flat opposition to any new Mode 4 "movement of people" services commitments.
political and legal reality is that the
why do countries seem to be willing to go along with this WTO ministerial?
The response I have heard from other countries' WTO negotiators is uniform:
they know about the
[* Lori Wallach is a Harvard trained lawyer and Director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, a public interest organization based in Washington, D. C. She is co-author of "Whose Trade Organization? A Comprehensive Guide to the WTO" (The New Press, 2004).] +