Free trade vs. “regulated” trade

Well worth reading in today’s Wall Street Journal — former Secretary of State James A. Baker, III’s cogent analysis of why it is critical for Congress to go beyond partisan politics and approve the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement.

Baker says:

The White House and Congress have reached an impasse. As a result, an economically and geopolitically important agreement is hanging in the balance. If our leaders in Congress don’t change their approach, a critical building block for stability in an important region of South America may fall victim to domestic partisan squabbling.

Contrast Baker’s well-reasoned and factual arguments with Sen. Sherrod Brown’s (D-OH) piece  in the same issue, titled “Don’t call me a protectionist.”  

Well, you could have fooled me.  In his attack on trade in general and the Colombia FTA in particular, Brown dredges out the same old “race to the bottom” arguments that have been the slogan of anti-trade activists — led by trade unions — over the past 10 or more years:

Trade agreements with no rules to protect our health, the environment and labor rights inevitably create a race to the bottom and weaken health and safety rules for our trading partners and for our own communities.

Sen. Brown seems to forget that Democratic policymakers last summer forced a “deal” — misguided that it was — to include extensive and enforceable environmental and labor standards in trade agreements that had already been negotiated and signed, including the Colombia FTA.   He also conveniently doesn’t mention that most Colombian goods come into the U.S. duty-free already, and the pending FTA would have Colombia reduce or eliminate most of its high tariffs.

As Brown bewails “unregulated trade,” he shows little understanding of what trade is — an exchange of goods and services by buyers and sellers that benefits both parties.