WTO Cites Security as Potential Trade Barrier Concern

Thursday, January 22, 2004
The United States has overcome several shocks since its last Trade Policy Review in 2001, helped by the contribution of its open and transparent trade regime to the highly efficient U.S. economy, according to a report on the trade policies and practices of the United States released January 16 by the WTO Secretariat. Recent U.S. macroeconomic policy has been directed, increasingly successfully, towards recovering and sustaining growth, with benefits to the global economy, including through trade transmission. But barriers to market access persist in a few, however important, areas: in particular, assistance to selected activities such as agriculture, steel, and textiles and clothing has burdened U.S. consumers, taxpayers and trade. The report notes that during this period, the United States has taken further steps to liberalize its trade regime on MFN (Most Favored Nation) as well as preferential bases. While acknowledging that the expanding U.S. preferential network could help draw partners into the multilateral system, the report emphasizes that care should be taken to avoid distracting resources away from it and that vested interests are not created that complicate multilateral negotiations. The report also discusses the new security considerations in the aftermath of the September 2001 attacks, and stresses that the new U.S. security-related policies and practices should not become unnecessary trade or investment barriers. The report also expresses some concern about the “twin deficits” and goes on to note that the presently perceived large bilateral trade imbalances that are now part of the U.S. current account situation could give rise to protectionist sentiment.

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