GATT: WHO SAYS BUSH IS A LAME DUCK?
The transition from George Bush to Bill Clinton has temporarily given the U.S. powerful leverage to move the long-stalled Uruguay Round of trade talks ahead. Now relatively free from domestic lobbying pressures, President Bush has turned his lame-duck status to advantage by breaking the deadlock with the European Community over farm subsidies. That clears the way to resume serious bargaining at Geneva under the 108-nation General Agreement on Tariffs & Trade on the full range of global trade issues, from textile quotas to protecting patents.
Until Jan. 20, President Bush has more political leeway to make tough trade-offs among the demands of competing U.S. economic sectors than incoming President Clinton is likely to have. But Bush certainly will insist that key trading partners dismantle long-standing trade barriers. Tokyo, for one, can't be allowed to block rice imports while it benefits from open global markets for its huge exports of cars and electronic goods. And India and Brazil can't rip off U.S. pharmaceutical patents on the pretense that economic underdevelopment gives them the right to do so.
The GATT negotiations can lift the global economy out of the doldrums by unleashing a vast surge of new trade. More than that, the bargaining is a chance for each country to unshackle its productive powers by getting rid of protections and subsidies that hobble domestic producers. President Bush, in what could be one of his greatest achievements, has led the way.