October 15,1999

Roth Statement on the President's Trade Agenda

WASHINGTON -- Senate Finance Committee Chairman William V. Roth, Jr. (R-DE) today released the following statement on the President's trade agenda. Chairman Roth welcomed the President's commitment to push an aggressive trade agenda at the upcoming World Trade Organization ministerial meeting in Seattle.

"We need to see more of the President making the case in public for trade," Roth stated. "An open and fair trading system offers profound benefits to working men and women both at home and abroad. But, we need American leadership to make the world trading system work.

"That is why the President's active leadership on trade is critical now, with the WTO ministerial meeting just weeks away. That meeting will not only set the agenda for a multilateral round of negotiations on agriculture, services, industrial goods and other areas, but it will likely define our economic future in the coming decades. As the President correctly pointed out, we face the challenge of remaining competitive in an increasingly global market whether we like it or not. For the sake of our farmers, workers and businesses, we must ensure that any new round of trade negotiations successfully opens foreign markets that have been blocked to American exports for too long.

"The President's statement last night was helpful in one other important respect. To accomplish our goals, we must ensure that the President and our negotiators have a concrete agenda for these negotiations and a clear plan for how to achieve those objectives. That has been lacking up to this point. Last night, the President outlined an agenda that, in the main, I support. Frankly, to achieve any of our goals, we will need to move ahead in a spirit of cooperation between our parties and between the President and Congress.

"We must also continue an effort that I have attempted to push forward from my position as Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. That is to reestablish a strong, bipartisan political consensus on trade liberalization. In that context, I welcome the President's willingness to define his objectives on agriculture, services, market access for industrial products, and electronic commerce in concrete terms. I also appreciate his defining what he expects to pursue on the more controversial issues of labor and the environment. That is something that I have pressed the President and his Trade Representative, Charlene Barshefsky, to do for some time.

"I do, however, want to sound a cautionary note as well. As I understand the President's proposal for a working group on labor, the intent is to analyze the nexus between trade and labor, such as the impact, if any, on wages and working conditions. While I question whether the WTO, with its limited resources and lack of expertise on such matters, is the appropriate forum for that discussion, I do not believe those of us who support an open and fair trading system have anything to fear from a discussion of such issues. I am confident that any such dialogue will confirm that trade is essential for a growing and competitive economy and, therefore, essential to raising standards of living and maintaining full employment.

"What I have emphad with the President before is that any attempt to use the WTO as a forum for the negotiation of labor or environmental standards is, due to the opposition of our trading partners and because of the organization's lack of competence in these areas, bound to fail. If we pursue that course, we will prevent any agreement on trade or on labor or the environment. Issues of labor standards and the environment, if we are going to address them in a negotiating forum, should be addressed in those international organizations specially dedicated to those tasks, namely the International Labor Organization and the international environmental organizations, like the parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. The United States should also continue to push for improvement in these areas through bilateral efforts, which I have long supported.

"In summary, I want to encourage the President to continue his efforts towards developing a concrete agenda for the ministerial. His continued and active leadership is critical to ensuring broad public support for our aims in Seattle and the negotiations that will follow are successful."