WASHINGTON (B)--EU Trade Minister Pascal Lamy on Dec. 18 voiced hope for "clear policy" on trade issues from the incoming Bush administration, and intimated that fuzzy U.S. trade policies in the last few years had been a stumbling block in the relationship between the two global partners. Lamy's comments came in a speech delivered here at the American Enterprise Institute.
Following the "spectacular" failure of the WTO meeting in Seattle in 1999, EU officials hoped that they would reach agreement with the United States on the agenda for a new round of trade talks, Lamy said.
One of the main reasons that did not happen, Lamy said, was the difficulty of establishing "a clear, visible, and constant policy line in Washington."
In this regard, issues that the Bush administration could clear up include: how much of a priority multilateral trade agreements are compared with bilateral agreements; what are the most sensitive trade issues; and in what overall direction do policy-makers plan to move U.S. trade policy.
"We Europeans are much better off with a clear policy line in Washington," Lamy said.
Moreover, clearer policies could even be a "good substitute for fast-track authority," he added, as they would give U.S. trading partners more confidence in U.S. trade policy intentions.
Fast-track trading authority, which President Bill Clinton failed to achieve, would allow the president to bring trade agreements to Congress for straight up-or-down approval, without the pact getting bogged down in congressional amendments.
President-elect George W. Bush had said during the campaign that he wanted to get a fast-track bill through Congress by April, but with the razor-thin majorities in Congress, this now seems unlikely.