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US Trade Policy's Three-Lane Highway

Think of U.S. trade negotiating strategy as a three-lane highway.  One lane is for the WTO; one is for regional agreements, like NAFTA and CAFTA; the third lane is for bilateral deals, like the US-Bahrain or US-Colombia Free Trade Agreements.  The greater the number of participants in the negotiation, the harder it can be to arrive at an agreement.  From this was born the doctrine of 'competitive liberalization.' 

The World Trade Organization now has more than 150 member countries.  But the WTO to date has been run on the principle of 'consensus', meaning that--in theory--any one nation can block agreement.  There was a push, in the 1990s, to include a Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) in the WTO

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