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For Bush, hurdles ahead to build new trade

r Summit of the Americas allowed Bush to launch first major foreign-policy initiative.

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After three days of talks in the summerlike air of Quebec City, President Bush has given an important symbolic push to his gauzy vision of helping to expand free trade from Argentina to the Arctic.

But actually putting in place such a hemispheric trade bloc, the president himself acknowledged over the weekend, will be "a tall order."

Tear-gassed protesters are actually the least of Mr. Bush's challenges, although they grabbed the biggest headlines and made for tense television footage.

Far greater obstacles include a skeptical Congress, significant disagreements between the US and Brazil over trade barriers on agricultural goods, and a history of unsuccessful attempts to join the wildly disparate North and South Continents in a trading club made up of democracies.

The Summit of the Americas, which marked the president's debut among international leaders, also gave Bush an occasion to launch his first major foreign-policy intiative: unifying the Western hemisphere via trade. Other presidents have shared this goal, but observers inside and outside the White House say Bush is going after it with a determination and focus unmatched by his recent predecessors.

"This guy wants to be seen as somebody who delivers," says Thomas Henriksen, a foreign-policy expert at Stanford University's Hoover Institution.

Remember that hemispheric unity was a Bush campaign promise, and certainly one that could help him win Hispanic votes, says Mr. Henriksen. "This is a very coherent, thought-through, methodical agenda issue."

The trading club "vision," as Bush calls it, was first articulated by his father, who nudged Washington in that general direction by initiating NAFTA, the free-trade agreement joining the US, Canada, and Mexico. Bill Clinton wrapped up that deal, and then went on to emphasize hemispheric free trade at two previous Americas summits.


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