Inside UNGA: The Importance of Trade

Posted by Daniel Sullivan
September 24, 2008
Bananas for Sale: Panama

About the Author: Daniel Sullivan serves as Assistant Secretary of State for Economic, Energy and Business Affairs.

I am about to walk in to a meeting between President Bush and leaders from eleven of the nations we have negotiated free trade agreements within the Western Hemisphere -- Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, and Peru. It is rare that so many leaders from other countries get together in one room to talk about important issues of the day, so I am really excited.

Today, President Bush and the other leaders will discuss how to ensure that the benefits of trade are broadly shared throughout our societies. Free trade agreements have proven to be invaluable tools for promoting prosperity throughout the Americas while also deepening our strategic ties in the region. These countries are our natural allies -- they share our commitment to democracy, to ensuring that all members of society enjoy the benefits of free trade and economic development, and to improving the environmental and labor situation in a continent that continues to struggle with income inequality and social exclusion.

Robust international trade is crucial to the health of the U.S. economy. With trade accounting for nearly two-thirds of U.S. economic growth from the second quarter of 2007 to the second quarter of 2008, we need to ensure that our trade will continue to expand so that it can contribute to U.S. economic growth in the future.

One of the best ways to increase opportunities for American farmers, manufacturers, and businesses is to negotiate and implement free trade agreements (FTAs). When President Bush took office, the United States had FTAs in force with three countries. Today, the United States has agreements in force with 14 countries, as well as three approved by Congress but not yet in force. U.S. exports have increased with every country with which the United States has an FTA, which means more good jobs for American workers.

Over the last few years, my colleagues and I at the State Department have traveled throughout Latin America to strengthen our regional partnerships. During these trips, I have heard over and over again that our friends desire a closer relationship with the United States, but are worried about rising protectionism. I join our partners -- those leaders which President Bush will be meeting with this morning -- in believing that trade is not the problem but a significant opportunity for our citizens.

I'll let you know later in the day how the meeting went. I look forward to future meetings of this group, and hope other countries in our Hemisphere will join with us. The problems that we face are not insurmountable if we cooperate together to solve them.

Editor's Note: Read Assistant Secretary Sullivan's next entry about the meeting.

Comments

Comments

Susan
|
Florida, USA
September 25, 2008

Susan in Florida writes:

Just a thought...Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Sullivan's final comment -- "The problems we face are not insurmountable if we cooperate together to solve them" -- should become our motto right here, right now, in the United States. We must begin to work together and hope that it is not too late.

Anna
|
District Of Columbia, USA
September 25, 2008

Anna in Washington, DC writes:

These trade agreements are so much more important than we realize. I think they represent true partnerships with our neighbors, as they advance both parties' interests. I think they also strengthen our security in the Americas by bringing together countries who support the free market and democracy. I did not know that we had so many agreements in force with other countries in the Western Hemisphere. I'm concerned, though, by the impact on workers as well as what mechanisms are in place to ensure that the goods imported are safe for consumers.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
September 25, 2008

Eric in New Mexico writes:

When you have a globalized, interdependent situation, you need a globalized system and common methodology in trade practice to create a stable supply and demand. Stable economies depend on stability in trading.

Wherein no nation unilaterally can manipulate maket economy of another, or get away with witholding essential supplies from the market without shooting themselves in the foot. Nor allow for the artificial manipulation of currencies.

IE: Ethicly, it is not proper to withold energy supplies from a population in the middle of the winter simply because of a political and/or trade dispute between nations leaderships.

So, WTO, Doha by intent are basicly setting standards of trade to create a more fair practice of trade among nations in order to benefit the populations of nations, not simply corporations or governments.

We in this nation have what's called a "stategic reserve" of energy supply in case of emergency.

It is high time to create a global reserve that can be utilized as needed to further stabilize energy markets in case of war or natural disaster, so that nations without any reserve of their own do not suffer catastrophic economic damage as a result.

And this reserve should be in multiple commodities, food, and other basic neccesities, above and beyond that which gets allocated now for purely humanitarian purpose by the UN and contributing member states.

In addition, massive public and private investment among nations is needed to create broader self sufficiancy in food production, domestic manufacturing, and diversity in types of energy production, with proper accountability built in.

Such a commitment to this globally among nations will help calm and/or prevent radical swings in prices, alleviate fear based speculation in crop futures, and keep consumer pricing stable enough to prevent "sticker shock" at the local level marketplace.

Not to mention creating jobs.

If there is true intent among nations to alleviate poverty globally, then this is what must happen first in order to achieve such a goal.

Belle
|
Utah, USA
September 25, 2008

Belle in Utah writes:

@ Assistant Secretary Sullivan, Thank you so much for your entry. First, I think this meeting is a wonderful one, and I am glad that all of the Western Hemisphere leaders who attended, were able to come together to talk about the important issues. This is a wonderful example of leaders in our hemisphere working together and maintaining a dialogue. It's great that this meeting occurred, but after reading your posting I'm left thinking the following:

Instead of writing a "commercial" about this meeting and why the meeting is so great, I would have liked if you would have emphasized:

(1) How the benefits of trade are broadly shared throughout our societies.
(2) How can you say that trade is contributing to U.S. Economic Growth and creating jobs?

It's easy to continue to throw these phrases that sound nice and positive out there, but obviously the American people are not seeing the benefits and the economy doesn't seem to be to be in great shape, so...it would be nice if you could talk about what was accomplished from this meeting. What did the U.S. leaders do to ensure that these agreements are benefitting the U.S. and not just the elite, also the middle class? I don't think people are against free trade, but if after this meeting you could highlight how jobs will be created, how this will help farmers, manufacturers, etc. that would be great. It's hard for regular Americans to see how trade is such a great opportunity and so beneficial, when we are just not seeing the benefits and times are so hard.

I agree that we don't want to run from free trade, because other countries will reap the benefits that we are could have been enjoying, but we have to look out for what is in the best interest of our people first. When we start to put the benefits of some, before what is beneficial for the majority, we aren't really doing a good thing? Or when we are helping other countries, more than we are helping our own, are we really doing such a great thing? I don't know, just a lot of questions that I thought of when reading this and about free trade.

Susan
|
Florida, USA
September 25, 2008

Susan in Florida writes:

@ Eric in New Mexico

What good and thoughtful suggestions. Sadly, too many leaders/ governments around the world care more about power, wealth, and control then the wellbeing of their people and nation. I do appreciate those who continue to try in the face of so many obstacles.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
September 25, 2008

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ Susan, on another thread I mentioned the broad applications inherant in the concept of "responsibility to protect", this topic invokes such an application wherein governments allow for the deprivation of basic neccessities to their population, for political reasons.

However, the narrow legal definition of the phrase as outlined by 2005 UNGA ( by agreement among many member states) does not adequately provide protection to populations in its implementation. For there seems to be a distinct lack of will in general, even opposition from among certain member states.

Whereas it concerns standards and precedents, the applicability of the words "responsibility to protect", wherein the needs of the many outweigh the soveregnity of nations; it becomes self evident by historical precedent that if the need to protect exists in the first place, soveregnity has already been compromised in most cases in a variety of aspects simultaneously.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the responsibilities of nations as defined by the UN Charter, as well as the rights of nations included within provide the bedrock for a global "Good Samaritan Act" that should be put in blue and tabled without delay, on a case by case basis to legitimize international response to crisis, by defining the amount and types of "protection" given a population as well as the inherant "responsibility" as defined by circumstance.

UN Sec. Council Resolutions exist in similar veign deliniating a government's responsibilities to accept aid to their populations endangered by circumstance beyond anyone's control.

Humanity faces global challenges that the current restrictive legal definition of three words cannot address nor implement properly in a timely manner to save lives.

Burma is a case in point.

The family of nations can do better than to scrape the barrel of lowest common denominator, rather than become greater than the sum of its parts.

All that requires is the will to do the right thing by people.

Simple solution, but some nations like to complicate it.

Susan
|
Florida, USA
September 26, 2008

Susan in Florida writes:

@ Eric in New Mexico --

You are so right -- the protection of a population by its government should be a given, an inherent responsibility. Go to the Question of the Week site --"What message...at the UN" one, and read the post from Babar in Pakistan. Interesting comment.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
September 26, 2008

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ Susan, comments are now closed on last week's question of week.

You'll find my response to Barbar's insighful comments here:

http://blogs.state.gov/index.php/entires/unga_2008

They follow up on my comments below.

Anna
|
District Of Columbia, USA
September 30, 2008

Anna in Washington, DC writes:

@ Mr. Sullivan --

I had expressed concern about what the U.S. government is doing to help protect consumers when importing goods. I read this morning that the U.S. will require foods to be labeled with a country of origin sticker, and I couldn't help but think of your posting. Labeling food goods is a reassuring first step.

If others are interested, here is the article that I read: http://www.cnn.com/2008/HEALTH/09/29/food.origin.labels.ap/index.html.

.

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