SINGAPORE -- Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said Monday a defeat of the North American Free Trade Agreement in U.S. Congress later this week would have disastrous consequences on America's economy and foreign policy.
Kissinger called the NAFTA vote 'the single most important decision that the American Congress is going to make in foreign policy in the term of President Bill Clinton.'
Kissinger spoke at a global forum, with Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's former prime minister, and Raymond Barre, the former premier of France.
The defeat of NAFTA, said Kissinger, 'would have a terrible effect on GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) and it would have a very inhibiting effect on the future of foreign policies.'
'I don't look at NAFTA as a trade agreement. I look at NAFTA as a new political orientation for the United States,' he said.
'The danger to America economically is not the loss of jobs to Mexico, but falling behind to more productive areas in the world if we don't get our economy right,' Kissinger said.
A congressional defeat of NAFTA would be an ill-timed embarrassment to President Clinton, who will attend the Asian Pacific Economic Conference Leaders' Summit in Seattle on Nov. 19 and 20, Kissinger said.
Lee, who now serves as Singapore's senior minister, said a NAFTA defeat would be interpreted in Asia as a sign of 'an introverted America.'
'If you can't accomodate your neighbor's problems, how are you going to accomodate East Asian dynamism and the rest of the world in the Uruguay Round (of GATT)?' Lee said.