Free trade agreements with Chile and Singapore represent “an important step to promote economic growth, bring lower prices to American consumers, and generate high wage jobs for American workers,” President George Bush said in signing the pacts.

“Benefits will flow to all our countries,” he said, and move them “toward a great goal — a world that trades in freedom, in the Western Hemisphere, in Asia, and beyond.”

The free trade agreement with Chile is the first ever with a South American country, the president noted. The agreement will benefit many American industries, including agriculture, he said, and as a result of trade with Chile, “somebody in America is more likely to find work in a good, high-paying job.”

The agreement also includes new protections for intellectual property, a secure legal framework for U.S. investors, and strong provisions for protecting labor and the environment, he said.

Chile has become ‘one of the strongest economies in the developing world, the president noted, and by establishing free trade with the U.S., it “will have the opportunity to advance even further and to help make the entire region more prosperous.”

The agreement between the U.S. and Singapore is also “historic,” the president said, and is the first between the U.S. and an Asia-Pacific country.

“Singapore is already America's 12th largest trading partner, importing a full range of U.S. products, from machine parts and computers to agricultural products. This agreement will increase access to Singapore's dynamic markets for America's exporters and service providers and investors.”

It also contains “strong” labor and environmental protections, he said.

The president said his administration supports free trade because “it is vital to the creation of jobs and to the success of our economy.”

Exports accounted for roughly one quarter of the U.S. economy's growth in the 1990s, he said.

“Jobs and exporting plants pay wages that average up to 18 percent more than jobs in non-exporting plants. Over the past decade, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Uruguay Round have raised the standards of living of the average American family of four by up to $2,000 per year.”

The continued advancement of free trade “is essential to this nation's economy,” the president said.

Developing nations will also benefit from free trade tied to economic reform, which “has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.” The growth of economic freedom and ownership in these nations “creates the habits of liberty and creates the pressure for democracy and political reform.”

Economic integration through trade can also foster political cooperation by promoting peace between nations, he said. “As free trade expands across the earth, the realm of human freedom expands with it.”

When Congress gave the president Trade Promotion Authority (fast track) last year, he said he “promised to use that tool aggressively to open up new markets for American exporters and to help create high-paying jobs for American workers.” And, he said, “We've seen results.”

The president said he signed the agreements “fully expecting to sign many more.” The U.S. is currently negotiating, he said, with Australia and Morocco, five nations in Central America, and the Southern African Customs Union.

“Soon, we will begin negotiations with Bahrain and the Dominican Republic. We're also working with 33 other nations in our hemisphere to create the Free Trade Area of the Americas. We're encouraging the free flow of commerce and investments among our partners in APEC and ASEAN, and hope to build on the success of our trade agreements with Jordan and Israel by establishing a U.S.-Middle East Free Trade Area within a decade to create new opportunities and new hope in a region that needs both.”

The greatest gains from world trade, the president said, will come from completing the World Trade Organization's global negotiations.

“We've made good progress since the negotiations started nearly two years ago, and WTO members can build on this progress in the upcoming negotiations in Cancun, Mexico.” Completing the WTO negotiations before the 2005 deadline “is essential,” the president said, because “opening global markets is a pathway to economic success for rich and poor nations alike. The spread of free trade reflects America's convictions that we believe in the dignity of every human being; we believe in freedom.”


e-mail: hbrandon@primediabusiness.com