Recently President Bush and heads of state from 11 other nations in the Western hemisphere met in New York to sign the Pathways to Prosperity in the Americas initiative. The agreement focuses on further cementing regional “trade and investment liberalization, social inclusion, development, rule of law, and democracy.” Although the agreement is largely symbolic at this point, talks are planned for the end of the year to discuss possible policy changes that can advance the goals of the initiative. In his formal announcement of the agreement, president Bush declared that the deal provided “a forum where leaders can work to ensure that the benefits of trade are broadly shared,” and expressed optimism that cooperation would enhance and strengthen the relations between all signatory nations.

In an op-ed piece published in the Miami Herald, former Presidents Clinton and Bush (George H. W.) officials argue that the Pathways initiative would provide a stepping-stone to accomplishing the broader 34-country Free Trade Agreement of the Americas.

The Washington Post also published an interesting article analyzing the significance of the agreement, indicating that the initiative will have little concrete ramifications for US trade policy both because of the little time left in the Bush administration and the increasingly protectionist mood in Washington. The most important part of the Pathways initiative is the signal that even pro-trade ideologues are moving to the center, in terms of support for fair trade policies and sustainability requirements.

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