America's agricultural interests are varied and sometimes in conflict. Beef, fruits and vegetables have no subsidies. But Americans pay more than four times the world price of sugar because of a combination of import quotas and tariffs. In general, the farm community -- one in three acres is planted for exports, which approach $60 billion annually -- supports free trade. Zoellick, who unlike many millions of his obese compatriots is rail-thin, says, ``How much can we eat? The markets have got to be abroad.''
Prying open 147 economies at once is a Herculean task. It is axiomatic that as the number of parties to a negotiation increases arithmetically, the difficulty of reaching an agreement increases exponentially. Trade negotiations involving 147 economies are more challenging than a Rubik's Cube -- more like three-dimensional chess.
Zoellick's aim is to insinuate ``some Hamiltonian concepts'' into U.S. foreign policy. Remember, he says, that without the sinews of economic strength that Hamilton provided, Jefferson -- who despised Hamilton -- would not have been able to achieve his greatest triumph, the Louisiana Purchase.
Furthermore, free trade amounts to domestic political reform. This is because tariffs, export subsidies and other forms of protectionism are examples of what economists call rent-seeking -- interest groups bending public power for private advantage.
Kerry praises multilateralism in the abstract. However, his trade policy -- ``fair trade,'' which means protectionism with an uneasy conscience -- would be much more unilateralist than Bush's has been.
In the world's long postwar march, under both parties, toward ever-increasing trade liberalization, the United States has been, in former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's phrase, the ``indispensable nation.'' If it does not push relentlessly, progress stalls. This matters now more than ever. As Zoellick correctly says, his work is one front in the war on terror because liberalizing trade is a means of opening closed Islamic societies and strengthening the modernizers within them.
Kerry may still be, as he was in earlier incarnations, more of a free trader than he now seems while pandering to his party's base. However, his trade policy would be hostage to Democratic factions -- organized labor, especially -- whose hostility to free trade will make his trade representative into a McClellan.
Zoellick, who hails from northern Illinois, resembles the pride of Galena, Ill. -- U.S. Grant. Lincoln, while enduring McClellan, tersely explained why he liked Grant: ``He fights.''
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