Why so silent on trade, Mr. President?

09/17/2009 11:26:43 AM
Tom Karst

Most of the year has gone by and pundits are observing that virtually the only pronouncement from President Obama on matters of trade is his recent sock-it-to-them tariff on Chinese tires. Writes The Washington Post in an editorial:

The question is: Exactly what is he doing to advance additional market-opening agreements that are clearly in the U.S. interest, such as pending deals with Colombia, South Korea and Panama? Or the Doha talks on reducing global tariffs? So far, the answer is somewhere between not much and nothing. Just as the tariff against Chinese tires reflects the unilateral urging of the United Steelworkers of America -- not U.S. tire companies -- so does Mr. Obama's broader trade policy seem pretty close to that of organized labor, which adamantly opposes all of the above-mentioned deals.

The damage done by the China tariff can probably be contained, albeit concentrated on those poorer Americans who will have to pay more to maintain their cars. But unless Mr. Obama not only declares but pursues a clear pro-trade policy, the U.S. economic recovery -- which must depend in large part on exports -- will suffer. On Sept. 24, the G-20 leaders assemble again in Pittsburgh. Through his actions on China and his inaction on everything else involving free trade, the summit host has given those leaders reason to question his commitment to open markets. Mr. Obama must reassure them. Words alone will not suffice.

TK: While Obama has been largely silent on completing/implementing free trade deals, not so industry. There has been a flood of comments on www.regulations.gov  relating to the trade deal with Korea, as the comment period for input on that deal just ended on Sept. 15.

Over 500 comments were received on the free trade agreement, including a 10-page comment from Western Growers’ Washington, D.C.-based director of federal government affairs Ken Barbic.

Barbic writes in his Sept. 15 letter to Ron Kirk, U.S. Trade Representative  that the FTA with Korea is the “most important and commercially significant” pact outside our hemisphere and could have “considerable benefit” for the specialty crop sector. 

Check out this link for WG’s full coments
Meanwhile, don’t overlook the complications that could arise from food safety legislation favored by the Obama Administration. In my coverage of the Washington apple section, Chris Schlect of the Northwest Horticultural Council reflected on this:


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