Washington -- The
United States remains committed to advancing World Trade
Organization (WTO) talks and helping establish the proposed
Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), but should these
efforts falter, the Bush administration will continue to
advance the U.S. trade agenda multilaterally and bilaterally,
says U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez.
Carlos M. Gutierrez
U.S. Secretary of Commerce
In an October 14 roundtable with reporters
in Washington, Gutierrez explained that progress at the
upcoming WTO ministerial meeting in Hong Kong, scheduled
for December 13-18, is of paramount importance to the U.S.
"The big priority is clearly the WTO,"
he said. "We are optimistic and will work very hard
to ensure the WTO talks succeed."
Success in Hong Kong will depend, in part,
on efforts to dismantle subsidies. Gutierrez said that while
the elimination of subsidies will be good for emerging economies,
for reducing poverty and for fostering middle classes, this
effort will require considerable commitment and leadership.
"That is the challenge; that is where
political will comes in," he said. "The president
knows it will not be easy."
Gutierrez added that success at WTO talks
in Hong Kong should translate into additional progress on
the overall U.S. trade agenda.
"No question the WTO is the big project,
and it will drive a lot of other major initiatives,"
Among these other major initiatives is the
FTAA. Gutierrez said that the proposed hemispheric trade
accord remains the ultimate goal for the region, and he
indicated that the United States hopes to work with its
FTAA co-chair, Brazil, to make progress toward this goal.
Gutierrez said the fourth Summit of the
Americas -- scheduled to take place in November in Mar del
Plata, Argentina -- will provide the United States with
an opportunity to discuss its ongoing desire for an FTAA
with its hemispheric partners. (See also Summit
of the Americas.)
"We hope our partners will have the
same enthusiasm that we do," he said.
Should WTO and FTAA talks falter despite
the best efforts of the Untied States, Gutierrez said, U.S.
officials would remain committed to advancing the trade
"The WTO is the big objective -- the
FTAA is smaller, but would [still] be very big," he
said. "But if those two [goals] are stalled, we will
continue to move forward ... We have trade we want to do
with many of our partners around the hemisphere."
As part of the United States' efforts to
expand economic ties in the hemisphere, Gutierrez will lead
a trade delegation of 19 U.S. companies to Guatemala, Honduras
and El Salvador. The October 15-22 trade mission will be
the first since the recent passage of the U.S.-Central American
Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) by the U.S. Congress. (See
CAFTA IMPLEMENTATION EFFORT SEEN AS KEY
Although approved on June 30 by the U.S.
Senate, on July 28 by the U.S. House of Representatives,
and signed by President Bush on August 2, the passage of
the trade accord marked only the beginning of U.S. efforts
to expand trade in the region, Gutierrez observed.
"The real work starts now," he
said. "We have to make sure CAFTA fulfills its promise."
He said the trade delegation marks "an
important first step" in the realization of this promise,
as well as an important step in the United States' long-term
economic relationship with Central America.
The commerce secretary said he was very
pleased by the Nicaraguan government's October 10 passage
of CAFTA. With Nicaragua's approval of CAFTA, Costa Rica
remains the only CAFTA participant yet to approve the accord.
Gutierrez said the United States hopes to implement CAFTA
in January 2006 -- with Costa Rica on board.
"We are hoping Costa Rica will be with
us," he said.
As the United States works to fulfill the
promise of CAFTA, it also continues to negotiate a free-trade
agreement with the Andean nations of Colombia, Ecuador and
Peru that makes sense for all parties, said Gutierrez. As
part of this effort, he added, U.S. Trade Representative
Rob Portman is working closely with the U.S. Congress to
ensure that their concerns are addressed. Gutierrez predicted
that once an Andean free-trade agreement is reached, it
will be approved.
"As with CAFTA, the facts will show
the pact is good for our country, good for the Andean countries
and good for the world," he said. "It will be
approved, just as was CAFTA."
For additional information, see Central
America - Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement.
Washington File Staff Writer