"Free Trade" Means Whatever We Like, Says Administration
U.S. Government Flip-Flops, Opposes Free Trade
Some people may still believe that so-called "free trade" is about a principle, trade, rather than just narrow political interests. No more. The New York Times has reported on the Clinton administration's opposition to free trade with the world's poorest nations. Here are a few excerpts from that April 9 article.
U.S. Resists Plan to Remove Tariffs for Poor Nations
by David SangerThe Clinton administration is opposing a World Bank proposal that would increase exports from the world's poorest and most indebted nations, for fear that it would inflame sentiments in Congress against President Clinton's efforts to win passage of an African favored trade bill and give China permanent normal trading status.
The proposal, pressed by the leaders of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in preparation for their meetings here next week, would allow some of the poorest nations of Africa, Latin America and Asia to sell goods to the United States and other Western nations without facing any tariffs or import quotas.
The administration's opposition to the proposal comes at an awkward moment, as demonstrators critical of the international lending institutions (IMF and World Bank) assemble for a week of protests during their meetings. Many of the protesters believe that the financial groups do too little on behalf of the poorest nations.
But as the trade proposal was argued out in secret, behind the closed doors of the World Bank and the I.M.F., the administration worked behind the scenes to scuttle it.
"We are really caught in the middle here," one senior administration official admitted on Friday, scrambling to explain why the White House had refused to endorse a plan that would aid some of the most struggling nations, including Senegal, Nicaragua, Congo, Kenya, Honduras and Nigeria, which pose little competitive threat to American firms.
The administration's quandary underscores the enormous economic tensions that will be on display in Washington in coming days. Poor nations will argue, as they did during the Seattle trade meetings four months ago, that the United States and other rich nations are using their enormous prosperity and technology to grow rapidly at the expense of countries being left far behind by economic globalization.
That view is essentially endorsed and supported in several reports prepared for the spring meetings of the World Bank and the I.M.F.
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