TWO SKILLED, TOUGH women are now President Clinton's top negotiators on the international scene. His nod for Secretary of State went to Madeleine Albright, who made her mark with sharp elbows as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Then last Friday he chose for U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky, whose reputation for aggressiveness in promoting U.S. economic interests is legendary wherever importers and exporters meet.
It was symbolic when the president's new appointees lined up at the latest Clinton press conference that Ms. Barshefsky was nowhere to be seen. She was in Singapore, having just completed a World Trade Organization agreement to eliminate practically all tariffs by 2000 in the booming information technology field. Mr. Clinton estimated this will be a $5 billion bonanza for U.S. exporters of computers, semiconductors and telecommunications equipment.
As a Cabinet-level member of the president's economic team, Ms. Barshefsky will be working with the new secretary-designate of Commerce, William Daley, of the Chicago political family. Mr. Daley was instrumental in gaining congressional approval of the North American Free Trade Agreement in the face of liberal Democratic opposition.
Heading the administration's overall economic policy operation will be Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, whose work in putting together a financial rescue package after the collapse of the Mexican peso probably saved NAFTA during its difficult infancy.
Other Clinton economic advisers in a shuffling of somewhat overlapping portfolios: Gene Sperling, a long-time Clinton aide, as chairman of the National Economic Council; Dan Tarullo, former NEC deputy as special presidential assistant in international economics, and, probably, former Federal Reserve Board vice chairman Alan Blinder as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers.
With the World Trade Organization still in a formative stage, with the U.S. in dispute with major trading partners over practices smacking of unilateralism, with China and Japan still racking up unsustainable trade surpluses, with the U.S. plunging into the information age at a speed that creates domestic pressures for economic nationalism -- with all these factors and more, Ms. Barshefsky promises to be a high-profile administration figure in a world where political diplomacy has to share pride of place with economic diplomacy.
Pub Date: 12/16/96