Surrendering the Field on Trade

By March 14, 2007Trade

Without renewal of Trade Promotion Authority, completion of the Doha Round of trade talks becomes an almost unrealizable task, leaving in place high barriers to U.S. exports, including manufactured goods. Yet you get the sense that some opponents think, “Who cares?” The United States economy is so powerful, we can keep the walls up, even raise the drawbridge, and the world’s consumers will still have to buy our products. After all, other countries can hardly race ahead of us in trade, can they?

Why yes, they can.

March 12 (Bloomberg) — Canada wants India to consider a free-trade agreement between the two countries if global trade talks continue to falter, a Canadian lawmaker said.

The so-called Doha round of talks among the World Trade Organization’s 150 member governments, which are aimed at lowering tariffs worldwide, have stalled because of disputes over farm subsidies. Canada has said it will seek out bilateral or regional agreements in Asia if those discussions fail.

“Depending on the outcome of the Doha round, we will assess next steps for meaningful trade liberalization between our two countries,” Ted Menzies, a legislator for Canada’s governing Conservative Party, said in a speech today in New Delhi. “A high-quality free-trade agreement should be our longer objective,” he said, according to a copy of the speech.

Indeed, while America dithers, our global competitors will be seizing market share.

The European Union’s trade commissioner, Peter Mandelson, is pressing the EU to negotiate free trade agreements with South Korea, India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Japan has a free trade agreement with Mexico and is exploring new agreements with India, Thailand and Indonesia.

Global competition IS a competition, and the United States can be the turtle, or it can be the hare. But put either of those metaphorical animals behind walls of protection and political perfectionism, our competitors will keep racing ahead. And we’ll lose out on all those jobs, all that wealth, noted in the post below.