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Senior US trade official says US participation is fundamental for global stability and economic growth

WASHINGTON, DC - 05/19/05 - A top US trade official has defended continued US participation in the World Trade Organization (WTO), while members of a Congressional panel have predicted that Congress would reject a bill requiring US withdrawal from the WTO, reports the Washington File.

At a hearing in the House of Representatives earlier this week, Deputy US Trade Representative Peter Allgeier testified that US leadership in the global trading system "is critical for continuing US prosperity and securing world stability."

The WTO "exists as the most important vehicle to advance US trade interests and is critical to America's workers, businesses, farmers and ranchers," Allgeier told members of the House Ways and Means trade subcommittee.

"Many are dependent [on] and all are affected by a global trading system that must operate with predictability and transparency, without discrimination against American products and providing for actions to address unfair trade practices," he said.

At issue was a bill submitted by WTO opponents calling for US withdrawal from the 125-member nation global trade organization.

Under the 1994 law approving US participation in the then just-forming trade organization, the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) must report to Congress once every five years a detailed analysis of the US' participation costs and benefits.

The Bush Administration submitted its 2005 report last March 1.

After submission of such a report any member of Congress is allowed to introduce a bill for WTO withdrawal and leaders of Congress must allow a vote on the bill to occur.

In the first such vote in 2000, the House rejected a withdrawal resolution 363-56.

Supporters of withdrawal argue that WTO membership amounts to a "surrender" of US sovereignty to an international organization.

Allgeier said that any US withdrawal from the WTO would mean the end of the trade organization and retreat to a global trading system based on "the law of the jungle."

"It's almost inconceivable how it would continue to operate without the United States," he said.

In addition to benefits produced for the US and other developed countries, Allgeier said, the WTO's rules-based system "promotes economic prospects for developing countries by fostering a business environment that attracts foreign investment."

Even though the surging US trade deficit has made trade an especially divisive issue in Congress, subcommittee members predicted that the pending WTO withdrawal bill would also be rejected in the weeks ahead by a wide margin.

"There will be a bipartisan vote on the WTO because the alternative is not wise," said Representative Sander Levin (D-Michigan), a longtime leader on trade issues among Democrats.

He added, however, that such a vote should not be misinterpreted and that the formerly strong bipartisan foundation for freer trade still needs to be rebuilt.

Levin's comments came as the administration was trying to round up enough votes to pass its free-trade agreement with five Central American countries and the Dominican Republic (CAFTA).

Rejection of CAFTA "would send a terrible signal worldwide" about US leadership and "jeopardize any progress made in the WTO negotiations that were launched in 2001," said Allgeier.

A number of subcommittee members, Democrats and Republicans, complained that scores of WTO dispute-settlement decisions have overreached authority established in the Uruguay Round agreement.

They cited especially decisions restricting US laws against unfair trade practices, such as dumping and subsidies, and laws against "safeguard measures" providing temporary relief to US industries injured by a surge of imports.

Representative Benjamin Cardin (D-Maryland), the senior Democrat on the subcommittee, said he was planning to submit legislation that would require USTR to have a special prosecutor to handle WTO dispute-settlement cases and would establish a panel of retired US judges to review decisions in such cases.

Republican Representative E. Clay Shaw of Florida, chairman of the subcommittee, said members of Congress should focus not only on dispute settlement but also on WTO success in opening markets and establishing a rules-based trading system.

"Members should not go away thinking that judging the WTO comes down to simply counting how many disputes were won or lost," Shaw said.

(Me thinks someone forgot to add the open border policies and the End of the USA as we know it)