The Bush administration will continue in 2004 to build on its trade accomplishments by promoting an “active and comprehensive” trade liberalization agenda, according to the US Trade Representative (USTR).

By pursuing multiple free trade initiatives, the United States is creating a “competition for liberalization” that provides leverage for greater openness in all negotiations, establishes models that can be used more broadly and gives free trade a “fresh” political impetus, Robert Zoellick said in an overview of the administration’s 2004 Trade Policy Agenda, which was sent March 1 to Congress accompanied by the 2003 report on trade agreements.

On the global front, he said, the United States is pressing an initiative to regain the momentum in World Trade Organization (WTO) talks, which collapsed in 2003.

Zoellick said that the initial response to his “common sense” suggestions to move the WTO negotiations forward has been “very positive,” indicating that 2004 need not be a “lost year” for those talks. In a letter sent to all WTO trade ministers in January, he suggested that progress will depend on the willingness of member countries to focus on the core agenda of market access for agriculture, manufactured goods and services.

Zoellick also reviewed progress made by the United States and its partners in negotiating regional and bilateral agreements as well as other trade and investment arrangements, including the Free Trade Area of Americas, US-Central America Free Trade Agreement, Enterprise for ASEAN Initiative, and a Middle East Free Trade Area.

Addressing the special needs of developing countries, Zoellick said that the United States—already the largest single-country donor of trade-related technical assistance—will continue to aid the developing world in boosting its trade capacity and integrating trade into development strategies.

On another issue, he said that in 2003 China’s progress in implementing its WTO market-opening obligations slowed. But he added that in response to US complaints, China has taken steps to address problems such as its administration of tariff-rate quotas for bulk agricultural commodities, market constraints in soybeans and cotton trade, and capitalization requirements in some financial service sectors.

Nevertheless, Zoellick said the Bush administration will continue to emphasize the need for structural changes in China that ensure “ongoing, open and fair” market access. The administration also will use the special safeguard mechanism, as appropriate, to help US industries adjust to China’s WTO accession, he said.

In addition, Zoellick cited trade disputes that the United States will try to resolve in 2004 in a way that ensures a level playing field for US interests. They include disputes with the European Union concerning agricultural biotechnology products, geographical indications and tax breaks for US exporters ruled by the WTO to be inconsistent with its rules, as well as cases with Mexico regarding telecommunications and rice antidumping duties. (State Department Press Releases and Documents)