U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue urged President Barack Obama to consider free- trade agreements with developing nations, identifying Brazil, India and Egypt as potential partners.
The administration should study deals with those nations and an accord with the European Union to lower tariffs and remove barriers to trade, investment and procurement, Donohue said in an opinion piece published today in the Honolulu Star Advertiser. Leaders from 21 nations are scheduled to gather this weekend in Honolulu for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.
“Increased trade can be an antidote to our weak economy and the answer to doubts about American economic leadership at home and abroad,” Donohue wrote in the Hawaii newspaper. He urged leaders at the meetings “to pursue a bold and aggressive trade agenda for the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.”
Donohue reiterated Chamber support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement the Obama administration is negotiating with Australia, Chile, Peru, Singapore, Malaysia, New Zealand, Vietnam and Brunei. A trade accord with those nations would be the first Obama signed rather than inherited and the biggest for the U.S. since the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico took effect in 1994.
The Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s largest business lobbying group, was among the top supporters of trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama that were ratified by Congress last month.
Donohue said that Congress should grant Obama fast-track authority, a legislative guarantee for trade deals that bans amendments, limits debate and ensures an up-or-down vote. The Obama administration said the deals passed last month were subject to fast-track because talks were concluded before it expired.
On the stalled Doha round of World Trade Organization negotiations, Donohue said the group should assemble a coalition of nations willing to lower barriers to trade in services industries.
At their meeting in May, ministers from the 21 APEC nations said the Doha talks face an “unbridgeable” gap and need a new approach after a decade without a deal. The talks, which began in Doha, Qatar, in 2001, have three primary areas of negotiation — agriculture, industrial goods and services.
The initial impasse emerged over agriculture subsidies in rich nations. In recent years, the U.S. and EU demanded that India, China and Brazil reduce tariffs on industrial goods.