IN a recent Monitor interview, United States Secretary of State James Baker III commented on the most pressing issues he faces and on how being secretary of state stacks up against his former job as President Reagan's secretary of the Treasury.
On the world's most urgent problems:
[Nonconventional weapons] proliferation is a major problem, maybe one of the two most pressing problems in the world. I would couple it with regional conflicts. It was that [combination of problems] that led to the Gulf war. It's that combination that we're also dealing with in North Korea, in India-Pakistan.
There's another that's very important: I think the world's free-trading system is at risk. If that happens it's going to create some very difficult political problems.
Another problem is restoring America's foreign competitiveness. We can only be strong politically and militarily if we're strong economically.... We need to find a way to restore our competitiveness.
On the difference between being secretary of the Treasury and secretary of state:
One thing you could do there that you can't do here is pick your shots. You could decide what you wanted to concentrate on because you were not held hostage to what was happening in the world every day. Here you have a lot more stuff coming at you, a lot more traffic in terms of written things you have to deal with.
Your role, in particular the negotiating aspects of it, is highly political - international politics, not politics in the electoral sense. This is a much more political job than the job of secretary of the Treasury.