Brian Pomper, executive director of the Alliance for Trade Enforcement, reveals the results of a nationwide poll of U.S. voters’ attitudes toward the enforcement of agreements with the nation’s trading partners.
AFTE’s poll found a public intensely interested in trade issues, even arcane concerns such as intellectual property protection. Two-thirds of the sampling said it was “very important” that policymakers protect American innovation, while nearly the same amount cited biopharmaceuticals as a particular area of concern. The sector’s rapid response in developing vaccines to fight the COVID-19 pandemic boosted its reputation among Americans, Pomper says.
Among all trade-related issues of concern to the populace, trade enforcement comes to the fore. Pomper says it’s especially crucial to hold Mexico to its obligations under the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which passed with overwhelming support in Congress. Mexico today “is adopting a variety of measures utterly without regard to the fact it’s signed this agreement with us,” Pomper says, expressing hope that the U.S. Trade Representative will range beyond labor issues under the USMCA, and push for enforcement of Mexico’s commercial obligations as well.
A concerted effort by the U.S. to uphold the provisions of its trade agreements could theoretically cause trading partners to retaliate, but to do so they would have to follow the same process that the U.S. is already undertaking. “As a general matter,” says Pomper, “we’re fully within our rights [to seek enforcement].”
The Biden Administration’s early focus on domestic issues, such as the pandemic, economic recovery and racial justice, could serve to push trade issues temporarily to the side. But Pomper says policymakers see a clear distinction between negotiating new trade agreements and enforcing old ones, and they won’t shy away from the latter regardless of the emphasis on domestic concerns.
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