Trade and special interests

A National Review Online editorial today takes President Obama to task for catering to Democratic special interests opposed to free trade. The editors note that of the three pending free trade agreements, the one with Panama is likely to pass. But the FTAs with South Korea and with Colombia will be thumbs down because of interest groups that are cloaking their protectionist positions with appeals about the environment and workers’ rights:

Debates over environmental impacts and workers’ rights in the developing world are smokescreens that mask an important facet of the trade debate: The Left is ideologically opposed to free trade, and that fact enters into Obama’s pragmatic political calculations.

The editorial points out the shortsightedness of his position in light of the national benefits of these agreements:

These deals offer a cost-free way to stimulate the economy and strengthen ties with important allies. If only Obama were a little more pragmatic in pursuing the national objectives and a little less so in pursuing his own.