This should be a major concern to the US for two reasons: First, the US is now integrated with the world economy as never before. A quarter of US GDP is tied to international trade, up from 10 per cent in 1970 — the largest such increase of any developed economy over this period. A third of US growth since 1990 has been generated by trade. And America's trade is increasingly global in scope — 37 per cent with Canada and Mexico, 23 per cent with Europe, 27 per cent with Asia. Last year alone, exports to China rose by almost 30 per cent. The US has also grown more reliant on the rules of the multilateral system to keep world markets open. Not only has it initiated more WTO dispute proceedings than any other country — some 75 since 1995 — according to USTR it has also won or successfully settled most of the cases it has brought. The point is this: even the US cannot achieve prosperity on its own; it is increasingly dependent on international trade, and the rules-based economic order that underpins it. As the biggest economy, largest trader and one of the most open markets in the world, it is axiomatic that the US has the greatest interest in widening and deepening the multilateral system. Furthermore, expanding international trade through the WTO generates increased global prosperity, in turn creating yet more opportunities for the US economy.
The second point is that strengthening the world trading system is essential to America's wider global objectives. Fighting terrorism, reducing poverty, improving health, integrating China and other countries in the global economy — all of these issues are linked, in one way or another, to world trade. This is not to say that trade is the answer to all America's economic concerns; only that meaningful solutions are inconceivable without it. The world trading system is the linchpin of today's global order — underpinning its security as well as its prosperity. A successful WTO is an example of how multilateralism can work. Conversely, if it weakens or fails, much else could fail with it. This is something which the US — at the epicentre of a more interdependent world — cannot afford to ignore.
These priorities must continue to guide US policy — as they have done since the Second World War. America has been the main driving force behind eight rounds of multilateral trade negotiations, including the successful conclusion of the Uruguay Round and the creation of the WTO. The US — together with the EU — was instrumental in launching the latest Doha Round two years ago. Likewise, the recent initiative, spearheaded by Ambassador Zoellick, to re-energize the negotiations and move them towards a successful conclusion is yet another example of how essential the US is to the multilateral process — signalling that the US remains committed to further liberalization, that the Round is moving, and that other countries have a tangible reason to get on board. The reality is this: when the US leads the system can move forward; when it withdraws, the system drifts.