Lou Dobbs and Susan Schwab: Clear Winner

By April 3, 2008Dobbs Watch, Trade

CNN has posted the transcript of Lou Dobbs Tonight from Wednesday featuring Dobbs’ interview with U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab, urging enactment of the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. An illuminating exchange, both as to the facts of the agreement and to Dobbs’ rhetorical tricks.

You look at the strongest, most positive point in the U.S. economy today, it’s U.S. exports. 40 percent of our economic growth last year was attributable to the increase in exports. So, here you got this deal with Colombia we negotiated and you can throw a lot of aggregate numbers about jobs and trade, we put this together one deal at a time and this deal even Lou Dobbs should like.

Right now, Colombia gets almost unlimited access to the U.S. market. 92 percent of what Colombia produces has been coming in here duty-free since 1991. This free trade agreement opens Colombia’s market to our exports. And that means Caterpillar Tractors. It means John Deer equipment in Illinois. It means Sony televisions.

DOBBS: Coca-cola.

SCHWAB: Sony televisions out of Pennsylvania, apples, poultry, rice.

DOBBS: Sony televisions out of Pennsylvania?

SCHWAB: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania shipped to Colombia. We have today 8,000 small and medium sized businesses that ship to Columbia. Right now, they face tariffs up to 35 percent. Here’s the key. If we’re going to be competitive vis-a-vis China, for example, those 8,000 small, medium-sized companies are competing with the Chinese for the Colombian market. If this free trade agreement goes through, we have the edge. We are more competitive.

Etc. The case wins on its merits. Which means that Dobbs then switches the debate to generalities.

DOBBS: What I don’t agree is the overall policy of free trade that has been pursued by this administration and previous administration and point of fact since 1976 is in the interests of the United States. We’ve run 32 consecutive years of trade deficits. We need to get a handle on what is a sensible trade policy.

This nonsense, as this administration has advanced it even before you were trade representative, I would say that Mr. Market is, you know, Mr. Market’s happy, we’re all happy. That is such utter nonsense in international trade, in international finance, in our domestic economy.

We are going to be paying for those misjudgments for years and future generations for years if we don’t come to terms with it. Why can we not have a rational, balanced mutual reciprocal trade policy?

Populist generalities.

And would Dobbs prefer a Mr. Market that’s not happy? A dour, glum market that retreats into itself?

P.S. As always, thanks to CNN for posting its transcripts. CNN does a fine job in speedy, accurate posting of its programs’ transcripts, a service that certainly brings this reader back to its pages. The other cable news networks could learn from its example.

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