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from The Great Debate:

Obama: Building trade to build growth

The Obama administration has quietly embraced the most ambitious agenda on trade and investment liberalization in the past two decades.

The United States is currently juggling no fewer than five high-level trade negotiations: free trade talks with the European Union; the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks with a dozen Asia-Pacific countries; a new Information Technology Agreement covering trade in high-tech goods; negotiations on liberalizing services trade though the World Trade Organization, and a last-ditch effort this week to agree on new trade facilitation measures at the WTO ministerial meeting in Bali.

This about-face on trade from President Barack Obama’s first term is remarkable.

In 2008, candidate Obama promised to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico to add tougher provisions for protecting worker rights and the environment. Once in the Oval Office, he stalled for several years before even sending to Congress three free trade agreements -- with South Korea, Panama and Colombia -- that had been completed by the Bush administration. Today, however, the administration’s trade agenda is the most far-reaching since the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the United States was negotiating NAFTA and the Uruguay Round of world trade talks.

from The Great Debate:

Don’t miss the boat on trade facilitation

Trade ministers open their meeting in Bali Tuesday with the aim of creating a new multilateral trade reform package worth more than $100 billion to the global economy. The deal -- focusing on measures to cut red tape at borders -- would be a welcome shot in the arm for both global trade and for the World Trade Organization itself.

This may come as a surprise to some. Indeed, you could be forgiven for thinking that the Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations had quietly died after a 10-year struggle. But in fact, work has continued in the World Trade Organization -- and in capitals around the world -- to capture some of the gains from what was once billed as the most ambitious trade round ever. The first multilateral trade agreement in almost 20 years now stands tantalizingly within reach.

from The Great Debate:

Forging ahead with free trade

The recent focus on what divides world leaders, from Syria to the euro zone, has obscured the significant agreements reached at the Group of 20 meeting in St. Petersburg earlier this month. One of the most important was support for free trade and opposition to protectionism.

We can now build on this momentum, as well as other trade liberalization efforts, to achieve meaningful progress at the World Trade Organization ministerial meeting in Bali in December.

from The Great Debate:

Protecting U.S. consumers from ‘Big Cattle’

More than eight months after losing a case at the World Trade Organization, the United States has finally begun changing its protectionist regulations for mandatory country-of-origin labels (COOL) on meat. Unfortunately, while the Obama administration claims that it is implementing the WTO’s recommendations, it is actually making the regulations more protectionist.

Congressional intervention now seems the only avenue left to defend consumer interests from the Big Cattle lobby and restore what’s left of America’s reputation in the global trading system.

from Financial Regulatory Forum:

Few post-crisis restrictions in finance trade-WTO

By Jonathan Lynn

GENEVA, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Few measures have been taken to curb trade in financial services in the wake of the crisis although the volumes have dropped sharply, according to a study by the World Trade Organization.

But measures to support troubled institutions will need to be unwound carefully to avoid distorting competition, the WTO said in an restricted report to members, dated Feb. 3, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters.

from From Reuters.com:

The day ahead: Friday

Looking for a sign the economy is turning around, investors keenly await the jobs number for August.

*  U.S. employers probably cut jobs by the smallest amount in a year in August, a sign of healing in the labor market, according to a Reuters survey.

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