WASHINGTON — U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick answered his critics on Capitol Hill Tuesday.
The top trade official delivered a message of reciprocity in trade to businessmen at the World Economic Forum at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, but he was also directing his comments at lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
At the same time, he and European Union Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy, who spoke to the forum via satellite, went to great lengths to tone down the escalating dispute over U.S. steel tariffs and give reassurances on their commitment to global talks aimed at lowering trade barriers.
Zoellick said he will fight for reciprocal market access in the new round of global trade talks alongside the EU, despite their differences.
Reciprocity has been one hot-button issue during the Senate debate over trade promotion authority — which would give President Bush the authority to negotiate trade agreements that Congress can approve or reject but not amend — and the renewal and expansion of the Andean Trade Preference Act. The Senate is expected to vote on the legislation this week.Addressing the perception among some lawmakers that the U.S. doesn’t fight enough to open markets, Zoellick said: “We need reciprocal openness. The bottom line is, after we get TPA, the U.S. will test whether other countries can meet the standards they set for us.”He said one of the big challenges will be balancing commitments to help developing countries build their capacity through World Bank loans with the mission to knock down their barriers to U.S. exports.
“Some of those developing countries that are most ardent about our barriers to textiles and apparel have much higher barriers to textiles and apparel than we do,” Zoellick said. “When all quotas are off in 2005, our average tariffs [on textiles and apparel] will be 12 percent, while Egypt, Pakistan and India will have averages of 40 percent.”Meanwhile, many World Trade Organization member nations have begun to question whether the EU-U.S. steel dispute will derail the new round of global trade talks. The EU is inching closer to imposing retaliatory sanctions of 100 percent duties on $364 million worth of U.S. products, including apparel products such as T-shirts, suits, jackets, blazers, dresses, skirts and shorts.
“You have to keep in mind the big picture — transatlantic economic integration,” said Zoellick, noting U.S. direct investment in Europe was $650 billion in 2000, while European investment in the U.S. was almost $950 billion.“If the U.S. and EU don’t work together, it won’t get done,” Zoellick said.
Lamy stressed that the EU and U.S. worked in concert to launch a successful round of talks, adding that “on most issues, we work shoulder to shoulder.”
But the punitive steel tariffs and agriculture subsidies in the just-passed farm bill have created an uproar among some WTO countries, which are labeling the U.S. protectionist.“Bob [Zoellick] makes the argument that steel and the farm bill are a price to pay for TPA,” said Lamy. “On the two issues, TPA has a price, but it must not have too high a price.”