NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Is Protectionism On The Rise?

January 6, 1999

The year 1998 was not a good one for free-trade advocates. President Clinton failed to obtain "fast track" authority to facilitate negotiations to lower trade barriers. A plan to curb the use of unilateral trade sanctions stalled. And a bill to liberalize trade with Africa died.

So what's ahead for 1999?

  • Congressional Republicans want Clinton to bring up "fast track" again in the spring and put pressure on Democrats to back it.
  • Experts are concerned that laws against "dumping" -- by which a country allegedly exports items below costs -- may get strengthened.
  • The current dispute over European banana imports may result in the U.S. slapping a 100 percent tariff on a variety of European exports to the U.S. -- and shatter the ability of the World Trade Organization to settle trade disputes.
  • Experts will be watching closely the course of the new euro, which -- by encouraging trade between the 11 European Union countries -- might result in a decline in trade between the U.S. and Europe.

Free-trade advocates who appeared to be winning their battle earlier in the 1990s, are apprehensive -- if not pessimistic -- about the prospects for their cause as the world enters 1999.

Source: Aaron Steelman, "What's Next on Trade Agenda?" Investor's Business Daily, January 6, 1999.


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