The Heritage Foundation’s Foundry blog has noted another astonishing omission from the presidential/vice presidential debates, that is, any serious inquiry into the candidates’ position on free trade. From “Morning Bell: A Trade Free Zone“:
International trade has been one of the biggest drivers of economic growth in recent years. The one bright spot in the American economy this past year has been the continued growth in U.S. exports. Exports generated an impressive two-thirds of U.S. economic growth over the past year. With the Doha round of trade talks grounded, bilateral free trade agreements (like those Obama voted against for Panama, Colombia and South Korea) are one of the only options for expanding trade. Although they comprise only 7.5% of global GDP (not including the U.S.), the countries the U.S. has free trade agreements with accounted for more than 42% of U.S. exports. Shutting down free trade now would be disastrous for the U.S. economy. The last time the U.S. reverted to protectionism in a time of economic turmoil President Herbert Hoover’s Smoot-Hawley Tariff helped usher in the Depression. This is not the direction our country needs to go.
Definitely not, but in a strange way, the financial crisis may have done some modest good for the cause of free trade, politically, that is. Everytime a candidate or politician denounces this or that policy for threatening “The Even Greater Depression,” he serves to remind the public of that era’s mistakes, including its worst until FDR took office, the Smoot-Hawley Tariff that led to a nascent, global trade war. (That’s Hawley on the left, Smoot on the right — both Republicans.)
And to every Democrat who denounces a Republican today for being a new Herbert Hoover, we say, denounce away — as long as you include Hoover’s signing of Smoot-Hawley as one of the appalling enactments needing repudiation.