US Commerce Secretary Mickey Kantor, appointed earlier this year after the death
of Ron Brown, argues that America's economic success depends upon the growth
of open markets
Pat Buchanan's primary campaign highlighted growing domestic support for more
protectionist trade and commerce policies. At a time when economies are
increasingly open and convergent, do you think that there is a place for these
kinds of policies?
Absolutely not. International trade continues to be central to the economic
well-being of the US. Millions of American jobs depend upon export expansion, as
well as the future jobs of our children. Globalisation is here to stay. We can't
just turn our backs on this reality, but must embrace it and make the most of the
opportunities that it offers.
We have put a great deal of effort into ensuring that other countries' markets
are as open as ours. During the past three years, the Clinton Administration has
concluded more than 200 trade agreements, including the Uruguay Round, NAFTA and
the Free Trade of the Americas (FTAA), and many other historic market-opening
agreements with Europe, Japan and China. These agreements have helped to create
thousands of high-paying jobs for American workers.
We entered into these agreements because we knew that they would benefit American
workers and American industry. Consequently, to maximise the benefits we can
expect from these agreements, we must ensure that foreign governments live up to
the full range of obligations that they have entered into.
The Commerce Department has a key role to play in this effort. I am committed to
using our unfair trade laws when US industries and their workers are injured by
unfair dumped or subsidised goods.
What can the US or the WTO do to curb abuses of Intellectual Property
For more than a decade, the US has pursued an active and aggressive trade policy
on intellectual property rights which has yielded dramatic results, bilaterally,
regionally and multilaterally, for our technology-based and creative industries.
Yet even with the state-of-the-art protection for intellectual property
established in the WTO and NAFTA, much work remains to be done before we can
declare victory in our effort to curb piracy and ensure that US intellectual
property owners are guaranteed adequate and effective protection, and fair and
equitable market access, worldwide.
As our recent frictions with China on intellectual property so clearly
demonstrated, our long-term challenge as we head into the next century is to
ensure that existing agreements are fully and properly enforced. Given the great
strides that have been made in establishing national, regional and multilateral
legal frameworks for IPR protection, we are confident that this new challenge can
be met through the continued use of bilateral tools such as Special 301, and the
new WTO dispute settlement mechanisms, which we have already put to use for
violations of agreements by Japan, Portugal, India and Pakistan.
As for China, the Administration's insistence this past June that China take
concrete actions to demonstrate its compliance with key aspects of our 1995 IPR
Enforcement Agreement has already produced gains. We recognise, however, that
achieving a truly effective IPR protection and enforcement structure in China is
a long-term process that will require a great deal of persistence and
determination on our part.
What opportunities does Mercosur offer US firms?
We support subregional trade agreements to the extent that they are
trade-expanding and do not raise barriers to third parties. The Clinton
Administration has long recognised that expanding trade in our hemisphere means
greater economic opportunity for US companies and workers, promotes the health,
welfare and livelihood of the region's people, fosters development and helps to
ensure that democracy remains the rule and not the exception. It was with this in
mind that we pushed for agreement at the Summit of the Americas (SOA), held in
Miami in 1994, to establish the FTAA by 2005.
It is too early to make a definitive assessment as to whether Mercosur benefits
US commercial interests, though trade trends are currently favourable and appear
to be continuing in the right direction.
In recent years US trade and investment in the Mercosur countries has risen
substantially. US exports to the four countries doubled in 1991-95 (rising from
US$8.8 billion in 1991 to US$17 billion in 1995) while the US trade surplus
increased from US$500 million to US$6.2 billion. This surge in US exports
coincided with the introduction by Argentina and Brazil of major macroeconomic
stabilisation programmes, unilateral trade liberalisation actions and structural
reforms. We will continue to support Mercosur's development and expect it to
adhere to WTO norms designed to minimise the potential for trade diversion.
If it continues to develop in a manner that is trade liberalising for third
countries as it expands inter-Mercosur trade, it can only help to increase US
commerce with the region.
What is your view of WTO efforts to liberalise the global telecoms sector in the
light of the US refusal to join a WTO-backed accord in April?
While the WTO talks on Basic Telecommunications had made some progress over two
years of negotiation, there was not a sufficient number of good offers on the
table at the end of April to conclude an agreement. The purpose of the
negotiations is to progressively liberalise telecom services around the world,
yet only 11 other countries have made offers that are equivalent to the US offer,
which provides for open market access for telecom services and facilities and
makes regulatory commitments to implement effective competition in all segments
of the market.
The US has taken a leadership role in these negotiations from the beginning, and
we supported efforts to extend the talks until next February to preserve the
progress that has been made and to seek improved offers from other 'critical
mass' countries, particularly in the areas of international and satellite
I believe that the WTO remains the best forum in which to promote trade
liberalisation in telecommunications services. This administration is committed
to doing all it can to achieve success in these negotiations. US telecoms firms
are poised to compete abroad and will benefit if we can open up access to a
worldwide telecom services marketplace that exceeds US$550 billion in annual
Big changes are under way in Europe - the EU, EMU and the opening up of the east
in particular. How well-placed is the US to benefit from these changes, or do you
see a single European trading bloc as a threat to future US prosperity?
The changes taking place in Europe are not a threat but a tremendous opportunity
for US firms and their workers. These changes will benefit US companies,
especially because harmonisation of regulations, practices and currency among EU
member states will bring down the costs of doing business. We are working with
European officials to ensure that the concerns of US companies about the process
of European integration - and there are some - are being taken into account.
The opening of Eastern Europe too presents great opportunities. In recent years,
Eastern European countries have started the process of upgrading their commercial
laws and policies to bring them in line with Western practices. The resulting
greater transparency and predictability of commericial decision-making has been a
boon to US companies as more of them discover the great untapped potential of
Finally, what challenges are posed by your move from the 'hands on' negotiating
role of Trade Representative to the policy-making position of Commerce Secretary?
The transition from Trade Representative to the position of Commerce Secretary
has involved a shift in my day-to-day role from that of negotiator to that of
policy-maker. Although the daily mechanics of these jobs are quite different,
they are complementary and share a common goal: to work to strengthen the economy
for all Americans through increased economic opportunity and a higher standard of
living. I embrace the exciting challenge of my new mission.
Our nation's performance over the past three years has made us again the world's
undisputed economic leader - the greatest exporter, the finest innovator, the
engine that drives the world's prosperity. America is winning in the global
economy and these resources will help to keep us there. The sum of all the
Commerce Department programmes and initiatives is simply this: new jobs, higher
wages and a growing standard of living for America's working men and women and a
stronger America, competing and winning in the 21st Century.
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©Kensington Publications 1996