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The strategic geography of trade

U.S. trade negotiating strategy is like a three-lane highway.  The United States picks and chooses its negotiating settings.  This three-lane trade doctrine is called Competitive Liberalization--moving ahead at global, regional, and bilateral levels.

At the global level is the WTO.  Because of the number of WTO member-nations -- more than 150 at last count -- this is the negotiating 'slow lane,' because it takes a long time to reach consensus among so many countries.

Regional agreements like NAFTA and CAFTA allow the United States to negotiate with a smaller number of countries and still get 'economies of scale.' 

The third negotiating lane is for bilateral deals, like the US-Bahrain or US-Singapore Free Trade Agreements.  One-on-one negotiations are also a way to gain leverage in multilateral trade talks. 

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