10 March 2004

Election-year politics pose a high hurdle for trade agreements

Australia could be an easier sell because it is just one country and has labor and income standards similar to the United States. Manufactured goods account for 93 percent of U.S. exports to Australia, and the pact would immediately end duties on almost all those goods.

But even it is controversial. Free traders chafe at the success of the U.S. sugar industry in winning exemptions from quota and tariff reductions. The Motion Picture Association of America is unhappy with language giving Australia the right to restrict American-filmed entertainment on Australian airways.

No congressional action on trade this year could cause a future logjam as other negotiations are completed. Negotiations are proceeding, if slowly, on a free trade zone for the entire Western Hemisphere outside Cuba, and other potential partners include Thailand and Bahrain.

If the US media don't think the FTA will pass ratification in the US congress, what effect would that failure have on our election? Incidentally I was talking with an old friend this afternoon who speculated that if Bush continues to decline in the polls the Man of Steel will probably go to the country before the US election. That would most likely place the election date between 6 August (when the double dissolution triggers expire) and 2 November when the US votes.

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