What’s needed — and not — in trade agreements

Today, both the U.S. Treasury Secretary and the U.S. Trade Representative vowed that the Bush Administration would push hard on global and regional trade agreements and reach out to the Democratic Congress. In separate speeches today, Secretary Henry Paulson (in London) and USTR Susan Schwab (in Washington, DC) said that the U.S. is committed to completing the World Trade Organization’s Doha Development Round.

In separate articles yesterday, journalists Morton Kondracke and the team of Cokie and Steven Roberts both strongly supported the need for more open trade as being in America’s national interest. Somewhat surprisingly the Roberts’ did a better job in showing the benefits of free trade for people, while noting:

“Even though free trade creates far more winners than losers, the losers tend to be louder and more visible. It’s easy to put a picture on TV of a shuttered factory or an unemployed worker. It’s much harder to show a family who earns more from expanding exports, or pays less because of inexpensive imports.

As a result, political demagogues, most of them Democrats, have exploited the anxieties that are inevitable in a rapidly changing economy.”

Kondracke, on the other hand, did a little bit of China-bashing — “an aggressive effort to fight trade cheating by China and other rivals” was needed, he said, as well as “a change of policy on including labor and environmental standards in future trade agreements.”

Kondracke and other journalists should check out the extensive labor and environmental mandates that already govern free trade agreements and are included in FTAs as a result of those mandates. See some reasons why those linkages aren’t a good idea.