Fears On Free Trade
Parmy Olson, 11.09.06, 6:00 AM ET
LONDON - Media across the globe described the Democratic victory in Congress as a clear indictment of President George W. Bush and a protest vote against the war in Iraq, and some also predicted greater difficulties in trade negotiations.
The right-wing Times of London said that the first election loser was free trade, adding that Democrats winning back the House of Representatives and possibly the Senate meant "the end of the enthusiasm in the U.S. for free-trade deals--to its own cost, to that of developing countries and, most certainly, to Europe."
The left-wing Guardian also observed that there could be a change in direction with Bush's program of bilateral and regional free-trade agreements, noting that “many Democrats have adopted protectionist positions."
Belgium's EurActive.com also foresaw a possible change of direction in multilateral trade negotiations. "Most important for the international agenda will be Congress' decision on whether to extend the Trade Promotion Authority Act, also known as 'fast track authority,' when it expires in July 2007. The act gives President Bush powerful authority in negotiating trade agreements. ... If this act is not renewed, a successful conclusion of the Doha Round [of World Trade Organization negotiations] will be increasingly unlikely."
Indeed, it's unlikely that a Democrat-controlled Congress will renew the president's fast-track authority. This is one reason why negotiators are working against the clock to iron out remaining trade differences between the United States and Russia that have prevented Russia from entering the WTO. It is the largest nation that still remains outside the global trade pact.
Many papers also picked up on the election defeats as a substantial blow to Bush's authority. The BBC's Web site said Bush had been "diminished" as a world leader, while BBC radio reported that Bush had been forced to throw the Democrats "raw meat," by announcing the resignation of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
France's left-wing daily Le Monde posted a rare banner headline across its front page: "United States: Electoral Sanction For Bush," while the right-wing Le Figaro said in rather more muted tones, "The Democratic strategy, which consisted of making the midterm elections a veritable referendum on the war in Iraq, seems to have paid off."
Arab News, an English-language daily in Saudi Arabia, put it simply with the headline, "Americans Judge Bush." The paper said that while the president had long told the country he was "the decider," the voters had now become the deciders.
Deutsche Welle, the Web site for Germany's English overseas broadcast network, said that the Democratic victory marked a new beginning for transatlantic ties: "German experts expect this political change to improve bilateral relations, both politically and in terms of public opinion."
But the Russian press agency Novosti reflected Russian ire over the foot-dragging in WTO negotiations and Bush's criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin's authoritarian approach to some issues. Novosti predicted that Russian-U.S. relations would continue deteriorating "regardless of which political party is at the helm of the American legislature" and quoted one expert as saying both the Democrats and Republicans "negatively evaluate Russia's domestic and foreign policies."
The Press Trust of India said victory for Democrats would not affect the civil nuclear deal between India and the U.S., "despite concerns among some leading members about proliferation."