When the Senate confirmed Susan C. Schwab as the Bush Administration’s Trade Representative June 8 – the second trade rep in just 13 months – it did so by voice vote, an uncommon occurrence for the usually-on-the-record body.
Contrary to rumors, the Senate’s swift action wasn’t because it needed to lock Schwab into the office before she discovered just what a mess the U.S. negotiating position in the World Trade Organization’s endless Doha Round really is. Schwab knows that fact all too well.
After all, before formally succeeding Rob Portman as America’s top WTO talker June 12, she served Portman as deputy trade rep for troublesome Europe, the Middle East and North and South America.
On the job. The closer truth is that the Senate acted fast because America needed her on the job fast.
The reason is as simple as it is obvious: the Doha Round is swiftly stumbling toward an empty-handed ending. Every fact, news story and new WTO analysis since her late-April nomination points to it. For example (or three), take the news of just June.
On June 1, the American Farm Bureau Federation and the leading soybean, sugar, wheat, barley, corn, cotton, milk, rice and canola farm groups sent a tersely-worded letter to President Bush warning the Administration that “American agriculture will not support any deeper cuts in domestic support than those already proposed” by the White House nearly two years ago.
The letter, which restated the groups’ firm quid pro quo – domestic subsidy cuts for increased overseas market access – went on to warn that “if negotiators are forced to scale back the level of ambition from the U.S. proposal” on market access, then the “level of ambition in cutting trade-distorting domestic support must be commensurately reduced