Obama Administration’s trade agenda released

According to President Obama’s 2009 Trade Policy Agenda, trade policy in his Administration will be used to promote “social accountability” and make trade “an important policy tool” to advance national environmental and energy goals. The agenda, released by the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office on March 2, 2009, also talks about “free and fair trade.”

It addresses the three pending bilateral trade agreements with Panama, Colombia, and South Korea and notes that the Administration will revisit those agreements, even though they had been signed and then renegotiated under a directive by the Democratic Congress. The agenda states:

We will conduct extensive outreach and discourse with the public on whether these agreements appropriately advance the interests of the United States and our trading partners. In particular, we will promptly, but responsibly, address the issues surrounding the Colombia, Korea and Panama Free Trade Agreements. We shall also review the implementation of our FTAs and bilateral investment treaties (BITs) to ensure that they advance the public interest.

During the Presidential primaries, trade was a contentious issue, with both Senators Clinton and Obama vowing to revisit the North America Free Trade Agreement. President Obama had seemed to back off a bit from that position, especially during his recent visit to Canada. However, his trade agenda seems to say that NAFTA will indeed be opened up:

We will also work with Canada and Mexico to identify ways in which NAFTA could be improved without having an adverse effect on trade. We will do this in a collaborative spirit and emphasize ways in which this process can benefit the citizens of all three countries.

It sounds like there will be some significant backing off from the more free trade policies of the Bush Administration toward a more “managed trade” approach:

Our agenda is to combine the best elements of previous trade policies, especially a rules-based system of global trade, with a determination to make trade policy a powerful contributor to the President’s national economic agenda for revival of the global economy and renewal of growth that benefits all people. If we work together, free and fair trade with a proper regard for social and environmental goals and appropriate political accountability will be a powerful contributor to the national and global well being.