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Commerce Secretary Gutierrez Says U.S. Committed to Trade Agenda

Says United States seeks successful WTO talks, more free-trade pacts

Posted: October 17, 2005


Carlos M. Gutierrez
U.S. Secretary of Commerce
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.

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. trade agenda.

"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. (See related article.)

"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," he said.

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 agenda.

"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 related article.)

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.


Scott Miller
Washington File Staff Writer

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