President Obama’s Export Rhetoric

Trade policy that focuses only on exports while ignoring or taxing imports is likely to be counterproductive, but isn’t likely to be adopted by the U.S.  The office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) recently released the 2010 National Trade Estimate (NTE) report. NTE is an annual report that analyzes trade barriers over the past year and proposes potential actions for the coming year.

This year’s report endorses President Obama’s plan to focus on increasing exports while largely ignoring imports.  When announcing the NTE findings to Congress this week, USTR Ambassador Ron Kirk said,

“The Obama Administration is following through on its commitment to call out and break down barriers to American exports worldwide. This year, we’ve gone beyond obligatory reporting to focus on some of the toughest hurdles America’s farmers, ranchers, manufacturers, and service providers face when they try to sell overseas.  USTR will take the information in these new reports, as well as in the National Trade Estimate itself, and use all the tools that we have to get these markets open to American products.”

This is all well and good; but what about increasing imports? Every day, Americans enjoy the luxury of affordable products from around the globe. An increase in imports would greatly benefit the average American consumer through providing greater choice and lower prices for consumers, while encouraging competition and innovation, which leads to higher quality goods and services.

The Obama Administration is focused on removing the trade barriers that other countries have against U.S. exports. Yet American trade barriers against foreign imports are equally harmful to American businesses and consumers. In fact, our protectionist policies against imports can affect our long-term plans for American exports. Actions against China, for example, in relation to tire imports, may lead to retaliation.  U.S. tariffs on imported ethanol and quotas for sugar imports don’t help the U.S. trade relationship with Brazil and other countries. Clearly, the U.S. wants the world to play fair with them, but also wants to keep its own protectionist measures up–even at the expense of the American people and the global economy.