Published online by Cambridge University Press: 10 December 2009
In the wake of the global economic turmoil of 1997–98, the Clinton administration aggressively pursued the use of international financial institutions as a means of stabilizing the turmoil and preventing its recurrence. By contrast, the Bush administration initially downplayed the use of international financial institutions as a means of effectively addressing global economic crises. Both administrations, however, maintained a firm commitment to the development of international trade law and its enforcement. With respect to bilateral trade, the United States sought to tear down foreign trade barriers through a combination of negotiating new bilateral trade agreements and the imposition of economic sanctions, and began the first steps of lifting certain longstanding sanctions against Cuba and Iran. At the same time, the United States pressed forward with the development of its bilateral investment treaty (BIT) program, signing—and in many instances ratifying—BITs with several countries during 1999–2001. With respect to regional trade, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) remained a powerful source of rules governing trade and investment among the three NAFTA states. During 1999–2001, NAFTA survived constitutional challenges in U.S. courts and spawned various decisions clarifying NAFTA rules and standards, particularly as they related to investor–state disputes. In light of NAFTA's success, the United States promoted the idea of a “free trade area of the Americas” in the hope that an agreement could be reached by 2005.