ZOELLICK RISING, PAGE 2

ZOELLICK RISING, PAGE 2

The Clinton administration, in its closing months, negotiated a free trade pact with Jordan but it was basically a Mid-East geopolitical initiative. Its free trade talks with Singapore and Chile seemed like afterthoughts, undertaken too late for the Clinton team to consummate. But the Bush administration hopes to complete them this year, with Zoellick talking up more free trade deals in the Asia Pacific region. As for a new WTO trade negotiation round, here again, Zoellick suggests, the U.S. may modify its agenda. 'We are looking at a full range of ideas' with the 15-nation European Union, he says. 'We are talking a fresh look at some of the issues.'

This could lead to a more comprehensive U.S. agenda at the proposed new WTO trade round. The Clinton administration balked at negotiating WTO investment and competition rules or reopening the WTO anti-dumping code.But last year, Zoellick, then in the private sector, signed onto a Trade Deficit Review Commission recommendation that the U.S. consider negotiating to change or even eliminate antidumping laws. Many other countries, he has since noted, impose antidumping laws lacking in transparency and due process. 'We have to examine' them, he said.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration seems to be taking a tougher stance than did the Clinton administration on the use of two new laws aimed at cracking down on foreign unfair trade practices, the so-called Byrd amendment and the carousel clause. Both were enacted last year by Congress over Clinton administration wishes.

The carousel statute is meant to step up pressure on the EU to lift its banana and beef import restrictions by periodically alternating the EU products subject to U.S. counter-sanctions. While the Clinton administration refused to implement the carousel law, Zoellick says he sees 'no recourse' but to invoke it, at least on bananas, unless the EU opens its banana market wider. In a letter to Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mt., he has called carousel 'an important tool in maximizing our leverage to resolve (the bananas and beef) disputes.'

The Bush administration also apparently will uphold the Byrd amendment, which transfers antidumping and countervailing duties collected on unfairly low-priced imports to the U.S. firms found hurt by those imports. The EU and other WTO members claim this violates WTO rules, but Zoellick and Commerce Secretary Don Evans indicate they will stand by the law, which takes effect Oct. 1.

These are just some of the 'balls in the air.' How the administration handles the Jordan free trade pact - Zoellick suggests he has problems with its labor and environmental provisions - and Vietnam trade accord remain to be seen. Whether Bush moves to act on a steel industry request for import curbs, which Zoellick allows is possible, is yet another.

How to deal with these and yet other issues on the trade agenda? Zoellick is weighing the idea of an omnibus bill, incorporating at least some of them - in particular the request for presidential negotiating authority and the Vietnam and Jordan trade accords - in one piece of legislation. That could help give a little more coherency to the 2001 trade agenda.