The Wall Street Journal: Reneging on Trade

By July 5, 2007Trade

The Wall Street Journal editorialists rough up the U.S. House majority today for knee-jerk protectionism and reneging on trade agreements with South American allies. Party leaders are jumping to the AFL-CIO’s tune, writes the Journal, focusing its criticism on Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI). The opening two paragraphs:

Democrats are promising to improve America’s image in the world if they retake the White House next year. Tell that to Peru and Colombia, which are watching Democrats in Congress renege on free-trade assurances that are barely a month old.

House Democrats pulled that fast one late last Friday, shortly before a holiday weekend when few were watching. They also announced their opposition to a free-trade pact with South Korea only a day before the deal was signed, and for good measure they announced that an extension of trade promotion authority (which expired June 30) is essentially dead as long as they run Congress. Ah, bipartisanship.

And the final two paragraphs:

All of this suggests that the real goal of the Levin-Pelosi Democrats is to put an end to further trade expansion. The details don’t matter; any excuse will do. If they succeed, they will do great harm to U.S. economic and political interests. Rejecting the Peru and Colombia deals would be a strategic disaster, playing into the hands of Hugo Chávez and others who want to turn Latin America against the U.S. And while America sits on the trade sidelines, the rest of the world will keep cutting its own bilateral and regional deals that leave U.S. workers and businesses at a disadvantage.

The Beltway’s favorite theme these days is the decline of the Bush Administration, but the trade story is about Democratic protectionism and a political double-cross. The President and business community should stop taking punches and start warning about the damage that the Levin-Pelosi Democrats are doing to the economy and to America’s image in the world.

Apropos that bolded sentence (ours), from Yonhap News:

SEOUL, July 4 (Yonhap) — South Korea and the European Union will exchange proposals on tariff duties as early as this weekend as the two sides prepare to hold a second round of negotiations for a proposed free trade agreement (FTA) this month, an official said Wednesday.

There’s leading, there’s following, and unfortunately, there’s also letting other people win.

UPDATE (3:40 p.m. ) Glenn Reynolds comments:

ONE OF THE RAPS ON THE UNITED STATES is that we’re nicer to our enemies than to our allies. Sadly, there’s a lot of truth to it, and it’s one reason our foreign policy efforts aren’t as successful as they should be.

Now it seems that we’re doing it again, with Colombia and free trade. It’s almost as if we’d rather have them selling cocaine and supporting terrorists than functioning as a democracy. More on the subject here and here. The incompetence and venality of America’s political class surprises even those of us who are paying attention.

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