"The Bush Administration has made bilateral and regional free-trade agreements (FTAs) more important elements of U.S. trade policy, a strategy known as 'competitive liberalization.' This strategy, it argues, will push forward trade liberalization simultaneously on bilateral, regional, and multilateral fronts. It is meant to spur trade negotiations by liberalizing trade with countries willing to join FTAs, and to pressure other countries to negotiate multilaterally. Critics contend, however, that the accent on regional and bilateral negotiations undermines the multilateral forum and increases the risk of trade diversion away from competitive countries not in the trade bloc. The United States is participating in several other regional and bilateral trade negotiations. Agreements were concluded and became effective during the 108th Congress with Australia, Chile, and Singapore. Also during the 108th Congress, an agreement with Morocco was approved, but it did not take effect until January 1, 2006. Legislation to implement the Central American Free Trade Agreement and the FTA with Bahrain were approved by Congress in the first session of the 109th Congress. Negotiations are underway with Panama, Thailand, three Andean nations (Colombia, Peru, and Ecuador), and the United Arab Emirates. Negotiations have recently concluded with Peru, Colombia, and Oman. USTR announced the launch of FTA negotiations with South Korea on February 3, 2006, and with Malaysia on March 8. Several other trade initiatives are under discussion, including a U.S.-Middle East FTA and an FTA with countries in southeast Asia."
CRS Report for Congress, RL33463
U.S. Department of State: http://fpc.state.gov/