The Political Economy of United States' Free Trade Arrangements
22 Pages Posted: 19 Oct 2003
Far from being the leader, the US has been a 'domino' belatedly falling into line in the global rush toward bilateral and regional free trade arrangements. Often the initiative for negotiations has come from seemingly weaker trading partners. Once in the game, however, and aware of the asymmetries of market power and issue salience that enhance US bargaining leverage, the US has been aggressively pursuing a variety of commercial and diplomatic interests, both tactical and strategic, that include bolstering local democratic institutions and processes of economic reform, strengthening US security ties, accelerating region-wide commercial liberalisation by allying with a regional leader, establishing new precedents to use as bench markers in future trade negotiations, and otherwise using free trade accords to advance its comprehensive global trade policy agenda. Bilateralism and regionalism have opened the door to an explicit introduction of political criteria, in contradiction to GATT/WTO apolitical universalism. While often reactive to the initiatives of other nations, the US has not been indiscriminate, deflecting the entreaties of suitors where US international political economy interests are not served.
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