GENET archive


6-Genetech §§: BIOSAFETY - NAFTA as door opener for GMOs to Europe?

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TITLE:  U.S. studies U.K. role in NAFTA
SOURCE: The Ottawa Citizen, Canada, by James Baxter
DATE:   January 15, 2000

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U.S. studies U.K. role in NAFTA

A U.S. government study to include Britain in NAFTA is moving ahead even though, as a member of the European Union, it is not permitted to be part of any other trade bloc. At the request of the U.S. Senate's powerful finance committee, trade officials are studying the potential impact on the U.S. economy of British membership in the North American Free Trade Agreement. This type of request is almost always the first step when Washington considers initiating comprehensive trade talks.

The study is the brainchild of committee chairman Republican Senator William Roth of Delaware and Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York, the ranking Democrat. Both well-known Anglophiles, the two wrote to International Trade Commission chairman Lynn Bragg in November asking her to "investigate the impact on the U.S. economy of including the United Kingdom in a free trade arrangement with the United States, Canada and Mexico."

The ITC will conduct hearings in April and is expected to issue its report in August. Most Canadian and American trade experts agree that it would be possible to forge closer trade ties with Britain, especially in investment and services, areas over which EU jurisdiction has been hotly contested. However, for Britain to join NAFTA, it would have to extricate itself from the EU, a move that could be highly disruptive to the global economy, senior Canadian trade officials said.

Trade experts and economists are quick to note there would also be little economic benefit for Britain to turn its back on the EU. Britain conducts about $85 billion U.S. in trade each year with the U.S.; its trade with Canada and Mexico accounts for about $5 billion more. In comparison, Britain's trade within the European Union exceeded $325 billion in 1998.

"Frankly, I think it may reflect a bit of pique on the part of the U.S. against the European Community (with whom relations have become increasingly strained, especially in the wake of acrimonious World Trade Organization meetings last month in Seattle)," said Canada's former ambassador to the WTO John Weekes, now a senior trade consultant based in Geneva.

"That kind of initiative, where you try to pick off one member state, is something that would irritate others in Europe, but I really don't think it's the kind of thing with any prospect of going anywhere."

Since the end of the Second World War, politicians, trade experts and business professionals have championed the idea of rebuilding trade links between North America and Britain. However, with most of the U.S. emphasis being placed on strengthening the multilateral general agreement on tariffs and trade and British economic fortunes becoming increasingly tied to those of mainland Europe, the movement has never garnered the necessary momentum.

Reform Leader Preston Manning and Conrad Black, owner of Southam Inc., have recently championed a renewed trans-Atlantic trade link between England and North America. However, some officials in Ottawa and Washington suggested this latest move is most certainly a protectionist reaction to growing disenchantment with the WTO and an emerging discomfort with globalization within the U.S. Promoting trade by improving ties with an English-speaking country like Britain would likely be deemed as non-threatening and would almost certainly be well-received by the American public, insiders said.

According to Washington insiders, there is a growing sentiment that further trade liberalization is unlikely within the WTO model and that it can thrive only by building on traditional cultural and economic similarities. However, one trade specialist expressed concern that there is a growing "ugly American" mentality that is encouraging politicians to look for ways to enhance trade ties with "predominantly white, English-speaking countries."

Another theory is that Mr. Roth and Mr. Moynihan are trying to stoke growing anti-Europe sentiments within Britain as a way to shake the EU off its strident negotiating stance.

For Republican senators with close ties to British Conservatives, their intent is to help the Tories develop a more credible get-tough-on-Europe platform with which to battle Tony Blair's pro-Europe Labour Party by offering an inviting option from the U.S. and NAFTA.


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