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U.S. Trade Agreements

July 16, 1993

* You claim ("Gnawing Fear Behind Free Trade Talk," editorial, July 9) that American jobs depend on successful participation in the global economy. But what are our basic needs? Food, housing and health care. And why can't these be mostly met by workers in our local communities? And isn't it better to provide necessities for our fellow citizens than luxuries for elites on other continents? And wouldn't Americans working to help each other strengthen the sense of community we sorely need?

Our "need" for global trade is like our "need" for cigarettes (I used to be a heavy smoker). It is not easy to quit, but it has to be done.



* The Tokyo economic summit: More to buy, fewer to buy it! The seven-nation economic summit started with a tour of robotic plants and the marvel of producing more with fewer workers. They ended with a promise to study worldwide unemployment and how to deal with the apparent stagnation of the global economy. They could start by listening to what they said.


Playa del Rey

* In his article (Opinion, July 4), David Friedman, an attorney, advocates more confrontational approaches to Japan to demand "broad quantifiable goals, such as eliminating the trade deficit in three years." Unfortunately, what he is suggesting is wrong demands with wrong approaches.

The U.S. trade deficit, whatever its actual figure, is a mere statistical indicator of the U.S. economic problem, not the problem itself. Thus, to be obsessed with the deficit and to rely on political means to reduce it simply miss the mark. Moreover, confrontational approaches to Japan by President Clinton would only weaken the position of pro-American internationalists and advocates of market-opening measures in Japan and would damage U.S. credibility among Japanese consumers, who should otherwise be chief supporters of the U.S. causes.

Friedman must not confuse U.S. trade policy with "us versus them" legal fights he has become sadly accustomed to.



* In his perspective on trade (Commentary, June 27) Abraham F. Lowenthal identifies a key weakness in the North American Free Trade Agreement: It does not take into account the "diverse views of various concerned groups or seriously weigh alternative visions of U.S.-Mexico relations."

To salvage an agreement, the Clinton Administration should renegotiate NAFTA along European Community lines. It should contain broad social and political charters that will ensure minimum labor standards, structural aid to poorer communities, fair labor-management relations and environmental safeguards.

The Bush Administration resisted the EC example, arguing that while the EC negotiated a wide range of political and social agreements, NAFTA is simply a narrow trade agreement. This narrowness is precisely the problem. The European countries are managing their interdependence in a way that the U.S., Canada and Mexico are not. Unless it is broadly renegotiated, this will be NAFTA's undoing.



* In response to "Judge Deals Blow to Free Trade Pact," July 1:

There may be good environmental reason to thwart or revise NAFTA, but that is for Congress to decide after reasonable debate. This Congress can amend the Environmental Protection Act, or any other act of any previous Congress. All that the Administration need do to get the process going--and get the judiciary out of the loop--is what was done in 1941 in the contentious lend-lease bill. Just begin the measure with the clause, "Notwithstanding the provisions of any other law."



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