"On June 6, 2003, the United States signed a bilateral free-trade agreement (FTA) with Chile. A month earlier, the United States had signed a bilateral FTA with Singapore. On July 15, 2003, implementing bills for the FTAs (Chile--H.R. 2738/S. 1416; Singapore-- H.R. 2739/S. 1417) were introduced in the House and Senate; they were passed by the House on July 24 and by the Senate on July 31. On August 4, 2003, the Administration notified Congress of its intent to begin negotiations for an FTA with the Dominican Republic and Bahrain. The Bush Administration is making these and other bilateral and regional FTAs more important elements of U.S. trade policy, a strategy known as 'competitive liberalization.' This strategy is designed to 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. Some argue, however, that the accent on regional and bilateral negotiations undermines the multilateral forum and increases the risk of trade diversion away from competitive countries that are not in the trade bloc."
CRS Issue Brief for Congress, IB10123
U.S. Department of State: http://fpc.state.gov/