Trade Advisory Groups Report on U.S. - Morocco FTA
WASHINGTON - The Office of the United States Trade Representative yesterday transmitted to the President and the Congress reports from 32 trade advisory committees, comprising more than 750 practitioners representing diverse interests and views, regarding the recently completed U.S.-Morocco Free Trade Agreement (FTA). The Trade Act of 2002 requires these committees to prepare reports on proposed trade agreements for the Administration and Congress. Support for the agreement was widespread among nearly all the committees.
"The trade advisory committee reports show that the Morocco FTA is a cutting edge, modern trade agreement that will expand economic freedom and support democracy. This agreement will open new opportunities for American manufactured goods, farm products, and services," said U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick. "The reports re cognize that this agreement is a vital step in creating a foundation for openness and economic growth, and is another step forward in the President's vision of a Middle East Free Trade Area."
Support for the agreement was widespread. The Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations (ACTPN), which is appointed by the President and is the most senior committee, urged the U.S.-Morocco FTA's "quick adoption and implementation." ACTPN found the agreement "to be strongly in the U.S. interest and to be an incentive for additional bilateral and regional agreements." Members of ACTPN also stated "the Morocco FTA will serve as a catalyst for other agreements in the Middle East and is a significant step in the President's stated goal of creating a Middle East Free Trade Area."
A majority of the Trade and Environment Policy Advisory Committee (TEPAC) said that the agreement provides adequate safeguards for the environment and noted, "this agreement, as well as the Administration's larger Middle East Trade Initiative, might help contribute to economic growth and stability and to positive national security outcomes in the region." TEPAC urged that new environmental mechanisms from other recent agreements, such as CAFTA's citizen-submission process, be included in all U.S. free trade agreements. Additional and differing viewpoints were expressed among committee members on issues such as intellectual property protection for pharmaceuticals, investment, and dispute resolution provisions.
Broad support was also expressed for the Morocco FTA by advisory committees on services, goods, and intellectual property. These committees highlighted the comprehensive nature of the agreement and its rapid elimination of tariffs on U.S. exports. Several committees particularly highlighted the agreements strong provision on intellectual property rights, with the advisory committee on Intellectual Property Rights saying that the Morocco FTA contains "the most advanced IP chapter in any FTA negotiated so far." Advisory committees on capital and consumer goods applauded the comprehensive nature of the agreement and its rapid or immediate elimination of tariffs on priority U.S. exports. Committees representing the automotive and chemicals sectors expressed support for the agreement, but indicated concerns about the timetable for tariff phase elimination and with regard to the rules of product origin.
Agricultural advisory committees voiced broad support for the agreement. The senior-level Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee (APAC) said the FTA "will improve opportunities for U.S. agricultural exports...new tariff rate quotas will assure access to Morocco's markets for U.S. common and durum wheat, beef, and poultry." Particularly strong support was voiced by agricultural advisory committees for meats, grains, and processed foods.
The committee of state and local government representatives (IGPAC) expressed support for the Morocco Agreement, finding that "America's economic growth and prosperity are best served by embracing strategies for more open and fair global markets." IGPAC representatives again stressed, as they have in the past, the need for trade agreements to continue to respect the authority of state and local governments to regulate in areas under their jurisdiction. The Labor Advisory Committee (LAC) urged Congress to reject the agreement, alleging deficiencies in local labor laws. Other criticisms in the LAC report are similar to the committee's criticisms of all U.S. free trade agreements negotiated under Trade Promotion Authority, such as alleged non-equivalence of dispute settlement procedures and opposition to provisions on investment and government procurement.
The trade advisory committee system was established in the Trade Act of 1974. The purpose of the system is to ensure that the Administration receives advice and assistance from a broad range of stakeholders in setting U.S. trade policy and developing balanced U.S. positions in trade negotiations. The advisory program is run jointly by five federal agencies: USTR, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Labor, and the Environmental Protection Agency. USTR is the lead agency.
The advisory groups are made up of more than 750 cleared advisors from business, agriculture, labor, environmental groups, consumer groups, state and local governments, as well as academic experts and retired U.S. government officials. There are 32 advisory committees which meet with U.S. trade officials to provide advice on proposed and on-going trade initiatives. In FY03, more than 150 advisory committee meetings were held. In addition, USTR and other agencies keep advisors informed by email and the Internet of important developments in trade negotiations. More than 125 such communications were sent to advisors in FY03.
Other recent improvements in the advisory system include daily webcast briefings at trade ministerial meetings, more frequent briefings during the concluding phases of trade negotiations, a secure website for review of documents, and a complete re-structuring of the industry sectoral and functional advisory committees to reflect the changing makeup of the U.S. economy.