Throughout most of American history, commercial interests have played a central role in foreign policy, and vice versa. During the next few decades the interaction between them will become more intense, more important, more difficult to manage, and more complicated for the American public to understand. The second Clinton administration should lay out a framework for this interaction to provide the necessary guide for setting priorities, making difficult tradeoffs between economic and foreign policy issues, and gaining popular support.
In mid-1997 it is not clear where either Washington or the American business community is headed. The president's first term ended on a note of ambiguity. The early enthusiasm for aggressive trade negotiations -- for NAFTA and GATT and with Japan -- was absent in the 1996 election as trade liberalization, possibly the administration's greatest accomplishment, was nowhere on the political agenda. High-profile trade missions had wound down even before
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