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US Trade Official Hopeful on Global Negotiation - 2001-09-26

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick says the terrorist attacks in the United States two weeks ago are giving new resolve to efforts to launch a new round of global negotiations to expand trade. Mr. Zoellick believes trade talks will be launched at a meeting in Doha, Qatar, in November.

Mr. Zoellick says the United States is at a point of decision. Will the terrorist attack cause the country to turn inward and disengage from the world, or will America build a coalition of nations to expand growth, openness, and development through trade?

The U.S. trade representative is convinced that the terrorist acts are causing trading nations to put aside their differences and strive for success at the World Trade Organization meeting in Doha. "At this point, as I've said, as Pascal Lamy [the EU trade commissioner] has said, we're committed to work together and launch the round in Doha. Because the momentum we've created, as anyone who has been involved in international negotiations knows, would be undercut if we're not able to do that."

Two years ago in Seattle, amid violent anti-globalization protests, trade talks could not be started because of acrimony between the European Union and the United States.

Mr. Zoellick appealed for Congress to approve legislation to give the president trade promotion authority. Most Democrats have been reluctant to support freer trade, but according to Mr. Zoellick, in the aftermath of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, that may be changing. He said, "The House Ways and Means Committee [last week] invited six economists up to talk to it, about a whole series of economic ideas for recovery and growth - spending, taxes - the one item they agreed on, Democrat and Republican, was the need to move forward on free trade. So I do not accept the position that this is something that Democrats oppose."

Mr. Zoellick says expanded free trade is a vital component in the counteroffensive against terrorism. Quoting Federal Reserve Board chairman Alan Greenspan, he said the struggle now is between producers and destroyers, and that in a time of national crisis, it is essential that the United States push forward its values of openness, peaceful exchange, democracy, the rule of law.

He says starting a new round of trade talks will be an unmistakable signal that the United States will lead in the promotion of free markets and free people.