China, Africa Top Year 2000 U.S. Trade Agenda

No surprise, the top two items on the U.S. 2000 trade agenda are permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) for China and trade aid for Africa and the Caribbean. A vote on PNTR in the House of Representatives, where a dozen or so votes will make the difference, is slated for next week. President Clinton is scheduled to sign into law this week the Africa/Caribbean measure, which further opens U.S. markets to products from several developing countries. But they're not the Administration's only trade priorities, according to a little-noticed list quietly released by the U.S. Trade Representative's Office in the White House two weeks ago. For example, in preparation for the Third Summit of the Americas scheduled for Quebec in April 2001, the U.S. and 33 other nations in the Western Hemisphere are working in nine groups on the draft text of an agreement to create a Free Trade Area of the Americas. The goal is to eliminate tariffs and non-tariff trade barriers throughout the hemisphere and establish a single set of trade rules. The U.S. also will be developing its negotiating proposals designed to liberalize trade in telecommunication, financial, training, private healthcare, and professional services. Trade in services and trade in agriculture are holdover items from the last set of world trade talks and presumably will be high on the agenda of the next round, whose dates and agenda have yet to be set. In the meantime, the Clinton Administration this year expects to be resolving specific disputes with Brazil (customs valuation of textiles), India (auto-industry investment rules), the Philippines (local content rules on cars, motorcycles, and commercial vehicles).

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