“Political pandering” on trade

The Denver Post yesterday ran an excellent editorial about the negative climate for free trade, with a focus on “election-year political pandering.” Here are some excerpts:

One of the more harmful results of this early presidential contest has been the introduction of election-year political pandering to the trade debate in Congress. The result may be a return to protectionist policies that will force American consumers to pay higher prices while costing U.S. workers thousands of export-related jobs.

Every U.S. president since World War II, Republican or Democrat, has fought to reduce the kind of trade barriers that triggered the Great Depression of the 1930s. For its part, the Bush administration has followed the fine example set by its Democratic predecessor, Bill Clinton, by seeking approval of free trade agreements with South Korea, Panama, Peru and Colombia.

But the Democrat-controlled Congress has so far balked — in part because of the desire of presidential hopefuls to curry favor with small but noisy special interests opposed to expanding trade. Even Sen. Hillary Clinton banged the protectionist drum in a recent appearance before the AFL-CIO by assailing the landmark North American Free Trade Agreement.