US-Chile trade talks here praised; next stop Santiago
By Paola Iuspa
Last week's US-Chile Free Trade talks in Miami gave way to a fourth round of negotiations to take place in May in Santiago, officers of the US Trade Representative said Tuesday.
The four days of meetings at the University of Miami left both sides hopeful and optimistic about the future of a proposed bilateral free trade agreement, said Chilean Deputy Trade Minister Osvaldo Rosales at the close of the talks.
Mr. Rosales said more than 70 delegates and 12 US agencies participated in 17 negotiation groups trying to find common ground in issues such as industrial goods, trade in agriculture products, rules of origin, customs procedures, technical norms and standards, and investment and competition policy.
US anti-dumping regulations, which prevent foreign countries from selling goods in the states for less than fair market value, are among issues that will require further deliberation, participants said.
Regina Vargo, deputy assistant secretary for the Western Hemisphere, who attended the US-Chile trade talks and sat next to Mr. Rosales at a press conference Friday at the University of Miami, said there is a long way to go before an agreement could be sealed.
"We don't believe the US should eliminate anti-dumping regulations," she said. "We don't want to see them weakened or eliminated."
Ms. Vargo said the bilateral talks had been so successful that many negotiating groups started writing some of the text that would be part of the body of the future free trade agreement.
Negotiations, which don't have a deadline yet, could move faster if Congress, which has exclusive constitutional authority over regulation of foreign commerce, authorizes President George W. Bush to lead negotiations.
If so, once the bargaining is complete, the role of Congress would be limited to approving or rejecting the agreement rather than changing it with amendments.
"Chile agreed to go ahead with the negotiations," Ms. Vargo said, "even though we didn't have the trade promotion authority, also known as fast-track authority, in place."
The negotiations were launched in December in Washington and a second round was held in January in Santiago.
US Trade Representative officials say bilateral trade between the US and Chile has more than doubled in the past decade to nearly $6 billion annually.
The Trade Representative and other agencies have been consulting with US business and civic groups in preparation for negotiations, which eventually would complement a broader agreement encompassing 34 Western Hemispheric nations, officials said.
The Free Trade Area of the Americas is an effort initiated during a 1994 Summit of the Americas in Miami. Negotiations leading to the agreement are held throughout the year at different locations and the results are shared among countries' officials at ministerial meetings and summits.
The 6th Western Hemisphere Trade Ministerial session will take place April 6-7 in Buenos Aires. Negotiating groups, with representatives from each member country, will present a draft of their text reflecting issues where consensus was reached.
Issues yet to be agreed upon will be bracketed in the text. After discussing the text, ministers will guide the negotiating groups on what to do next, organizers said.
Heads of government from 34 nations will gather in Quebec City April 20-22 for the third Summit of the Americas to share the progress made toward creation of the trade pact, with a 2005 self-imposed deadline.