Saturday, April 22, 2017

From the Archives: Two views on breaking the free-trade policy logjam

Publisher's note: This article was originally published on on April 22, 2010. The publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site went dark on or about July 10, 2016.  I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.

Two views on breaking the free-trade policy logjam
April 22, 2010 6:35 PM MST

There are three major free-trade agreements pending in Congress: one each with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea.

free trade Obama Rick Sincere
Congressional approval is necessary to implement the agreements, which are intended to reduce tariffs and quotas and smooth the way for the United States to increase its exports to those countries while also allowing the three trading partners to export more products to the United States.

Brink Lindsey, now vice president for research at the Cato Institute in Washington, formerly served as director of that organization’s Center for Trade Policy Studies. He is the author of The Age of Abundance: How Prosperity Transformed America’s Politics and Culture and, with Daniel Ikenson, Antidumping Exposed: The Devilish Details of Unfair Trade Law.

Trade Policy in the Mud
Lindsey spoke about the prospect of ratification for the three free-trade agreements when he was in Charlottesville on April 15. He told the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner that “they are all stuck in the mud for the foreseeable future.”

In order to get them out of the mud, Lindsey said, “we would need President Obama to see that his credentials as a multilateralist would be burnished by getting these bills through Congress.” At the moment, he continued, Obama is “not putting pressure on Congress.”

Moreover, Democratic control of Congress “means they are very sensitive to the interests of organized labor, it doesn’t want to move on them. That logjam has to be broken.”

Breaking the Logjam
Lindsey went on to say that “it’s possible now that [since] Obama is well to the left of public opinion and is suffering in the polls as a result,” the president will be “looking for things to make him seem more moderate, make him seem more pro-business, more pro-market”

In other words, Lindsey suggests that “this is one possibility for him to buck the interest groups in his party and push sound trade policy. It’s possible, [but] I’m not holding my breath.”

Would any one of the agreements be more likely than the others to be approved first? Lindsey thinks not. “They’ll all rise or fall together,” he said.

A Candidate’s View
GOP congressional candidate Matthew Berry explained the importance of free trade policy during an interview on April 17.

“We need free trade agreements for two reasons,” Berry said. First, “more American exports mean more American jobs… a billion dollars worth of exports creates about 15,000 American jobs.”

Second, he said, “Trade increases competition, which means lower prices for American consumers, so your dollar goes farther.”

Obama’s Willing Partners
To break the logjam that Lindsey identified, Berry argued that if Republican candidates do well in 2010, President Obama will have “more willing partners in Congress” because even though the President says that he favors ratification, “he hasn’t been willing to expend any political capital to get them ratified.”

Berry concluded that, “if the Republicans could retake Congress, it will be easier for President Obama to put these on the table and [get them] passed.”

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