The Democratic Leadership Council offers some observations on US trade policy that are surprisingly apt here too.
While the president has always been rhetorically pro-trade, he’s presided over a long series of blunders and lost opportunities for trade expansion.
He was granted Trade Promotion Authority — basically the ability to submit trade agreements to Congress for an up-or-down vote — in 2002 in hopes that he would negotiate big agreements, including the partially negotiated Free Trade Area of the Americas and the World Trade Organization’s newly launched Doha Round. Five years later, the FTAA is moribund and the Doha Round is clinging to life, in no small part due to U.S. negligence. The string of smaller bilateral FTAs the administration negotiated instead has galvanized anti-trade sentiment without producing any significant expansion of U.S. economic opportunities. …
We must also remember the stakes involved in getting trade policy right. Expanded trade was undeniably a key part of the high-growth, low-inflation, high-wage economic expansion of the 1990s; even now it plays a key role in keeping inflation and unemployment at historically impressive levels. “Fair trade” policies that in effect restrict trade hurt far more workers than they purport to help.
While many Democrats find it tempting to “Just Say No” to Bush trade policies and refuse to offer a progressive alternative strategy, this would squander real opportunities to boost U.S. exports, create jobs for middle-class workers, provide tangible help to some of the world’s poorest and most unstable regions, and keep this country competitive in a global marketplace from which we cannot possibly isolate ourselves. …
Here’s what we recommend they accomplish this year: First, a short-term renewal of Trade Promotion Authority for the sole purpose of concluding the Doha Round. This is the only opportunity to deal with the five major partners — Canada, Mexico, China, the EU, and Japan — which account for two-thirds of American trade, along with big developing countries like Brazil and India. In conjunction with a progressive farm bill, completing Doha is the best opportunity to capture new markets and jobs, while providing critical economic help to poor and often unstable countries. ….
While it’s unlikely that a Rudd-led ALP will make the mistake of taking the fair trade path, it’s unfortunate that one doesn’t hear Labor talking about trade very often. As part of claiming the economic centre ground, it would be good to hear Labor asking frequently and forcefully why the country that formed the Cairns Group has done so little to bring home the Doha round.
Unlike bilateral trade agreements, WTO deals don’t typically get the Australian PMÂ a photogenic press conference on the south lawn of the White House. But in economic terms, they matter a heck of a lot more – both for Australians, and for the world’s poorest.