Monday, March 8, 2021
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JimWebster

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Trade: An Important Democratic Legacy for America

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The trade bill spectacle in the House of Representatives Friday saw a strong majority of Democrats not only reject the entreaty of their own President Obama but also repudiate a legacy of Democrats from FDR and Truman through Carter and Clinton.

Fortunately, they will have an opportunity to correct what I consider to be an unfortunate, although understandable, vote in the coming week and grant the president the same kind of trade negotiating authority that was given every previous president in the modern age.

The global trading system was a liberal vision launched at the end of World War II and expanded with U.S. leadership in subsequent decades. Working at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, I was privileged to play a bit part securing congressional approval of the Tokyo Round agreement in 1979. As a journalist since 1981, I have studied in depth the politics and substance of the Uruguay Round agreement that created the World Trade Organization, the North American Free Trade Agreement and several other bilateral and multilateral trade agreements.

At a glance, it might appear that this proliferation of trade agreements is connected with the loss of manufacturing jobs and stagnation of middle class wages over the last 40-some years. But on more thorough analysis, I am convinced that job losses are due more to technology and other factors unrelated to trade agreements and the inequality in wealth and income is a product of unwise, Republican-driven tax policies that encourage wealth to trickle upwards.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, now being negotiated with some dozen Pacific Rim nations likewise does not threaten American jobs. The United States has few barriers now to imports from those nations. By contrast, many of the negotiating parties erect obstacles to buying American goods and services. It is those countries' tariffs and their barriers - especially those sanitary rules without a scientific basis - to American exports that would come down under TPP.

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