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Posted by Sadie from ? ( on Friday, May 09, 2003 at 6:16PM :

I think we all know what "free" trade really means: the rich (the huge corporations) take advantage of poor people...
Bush to Offer Incentives for Mideast Peace
President Says Prosperity Critical to Lasting Peace Accord

By Deb Reichmann
The Associated Press
Friday, May 9, 2003; 4:15 PM

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- President Bush promoted the Israeli-Palestinian peace process Friday by dangling an attractive economic prize: the removal of U.S. trade barriers for countries in the Middle East within the next decade.

In a commencement speech to 1,200 graduates at the University of South Carolina, the president said economic prosperity is critical to a lasting peace accord and that unrestricted U.S. trade with the Middle East could help the region prosper.

Stopping in Columbia, S.C., before a trip to sell his tax-cut plan in New Mexico, Nebraska and Indiana, Bush said hatred must be replaced by new hope in the Middle East. And he pledged to work to get the parties to sign an accord.

By replacing corruption "with free markets and fair laws, the people of the Middle East will grow in prosperity and freedom," Bush said.

The combined gross national product of all Arab countries is smaller than that of Spain, the president said. The Arab world is missing out on the economic growth that other areas of the world have enjoyed.

"I propose the establishment of a Middle East free trade area" within ten years, Bush said.

He suggested that the United States would bring countries across the region into such a pact on a country-by-country basis.

He also said he had a vision of "two states, Israel and Palestine, side by side in prosperity and peace."

Bush, wearing a dark blue graduation gown with black bands, spoke as Secretary of State Colin Powell prepared for weekend negotiations in the Middle East with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and new Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas. As he began his trip, violence flared. On Thursday in Gaza, Israeli forces killed a Hammas militant and a Palestinian killed himself by blowing up a car bomb after crashing into an Israeli tank. Three other Palestinians died Thursday in separate incidents.

Powell's mission is to gain acceptance of a blueprint for peace, the "road map" developed by the Bush administration, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia. Key provisions include a cease-fire to end 31 months of violence, commitments to stop fighting, a freeze on building homes for Jews on the West Bank and a rollback of some existing settlements.

Bush, who was given an honorary doctorate of law, offered broad outlines for a Middle East free-trade zone in his South Carolina speech. The United States already has free-trade agreements with Israel, Jordan, Canada, Mexico and, as of Wednesday, Singapore.

Free trade is increasingly seen as synonymous with security, said Sherman Katz, an international business analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Part of the theory goes that if businesses in the Middle East are given free access to the world's largest market, the United States, there will be more jobs and young people might be less inclined to join with terrorist organizations, Katz explained.

A free trade zone in the Middle East would put Arab countries on a more equal footing with Israel, which already has the free trade deal with America. Katz said Bush's proposal also might speed up ongoing negotiations to set up a free trade agreement with Morocco.

Foreign policy aside, Bush had political reasons to visit the state now. Last weekend, on the same campus, nine Democratic contenders for president debated, criticizing Bush for his tax-cut plan and the sluggish economy. For three days, South Carolina was front and center on the political stage. Not wanting the Democratic message to percolate through the minds of South Carolina voters too long, Bush put the spotlight back on the presidency - if only for the day.

Bush easily won South Carolina in 2000, but not all the students were happy Bush was commencement speaker.

"My graduation is turning into Bush's speech," said Matthew Brown, a political science major from Charlotte, S.C. , adding that last weekend's Democratic debate is a "huge reason why he's here."

Before leaving for South Carolina, Bush paused in the Rose Garden to criticize Senate Democrats for delaying confirmation votes on his nominees for the federal bench. He demanded up-or-down votes on each one.

Two years ago Friday, Bush sent his first 11 nominees for federal appeals courts to the Senate. Three still await confirmation - Miguel Estrada, Priscilla Owen and Terry Boyle.

"The judicial confirmation process is broken and it must be fixed," he said. "While senators stall and hold on to old grudges, American justice is suffering."

Later Friday, the president was headed to Santa Fe, N.M., to spend the weekend at the home of Roland Betts. Betts was a Bush classmate at Yale, a campaign fund-raiser and a partner with him in the Texas Rangers baseball team. Betts is the lead planner for the redevelopment of the World Trade Center site.

Next week, Bush hits the road to campaign in three states for his tax-cut package.

On Monday, the president will meet with small business owners in Albuquerque, N.M., and give a speech on his jobs and growth plan. Later that day, he will fly to Omaha, Neb., where he will spend most of his time at the Airlite Plastics plant.

On Tuesday, he will meet senior citizens in Indianapolis and give another speech on his economic-stimulus plan.

2003 The Washington Post Company

-- Sadie
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