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.'
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.