Advances in the war on terrorism helped drive financial markets higher this week. The trade responded favorably to military success in Afghanistan and Congressional agreement on domestic airport security. And government numbers this week further backed forecasts by some analysts of an economic turnaround by the first quarter of 2002.
Inflation remains in check as consumer prices fell in October. That led to a steep jump in retail sales as consumers snapped up bargains on everything from clothes to cars. And the number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits dropped last week, indicating the rate of layoffs sweeping the country has slowed.
The economic outlook beyond U.S. shores also is improving. But future global prosperity hinges on thorny issues that influence trade, like agricultural subsidies and evolving U.S. farm policy.
The World Trade Organization predicts this year's global exchanges will grow by two percent, a number one WTO spokesman claims is too optimistic. In sharp contrast is a United Nations estimate of zero growth, a number the WTO calls too pessimistic. In 2000, world trade blossomed at a rate of 12 percent.
The dismal prospects for expanded world sales are bringing a sense of urgency to members of congress. Some assert passage of a bill which gives trade promotion authority could be the answer. Trade promotion authority, also known as T-P-A, would give the President the ability to negotiate deals with other countries and then bring that agreement back to congress for a simple up or down vote. But, as of yet T-P-A does not have wide enough appeal for the issue to be brought up for a vote. If President Bush expects T-P-A to become a reality, the administration likely will have to engage in all types of persuasion.