On Trade, an Unhappy Third Anniversary

By May 10, 2010Trade

Today is the third anniversary of the Bipartisan Agreement on Trade, “The May 10th Agreement,” a bargain that in return for including enforceable labor and environmental provisions in U.S. trade agreements, those agreements would receive speedy bipartisan support in Congress. But three years later, our trade agreements are still languishing with Colombia, Korea, and Panama.

What a sad anniversary. Nearly 80,000 Americans are unemployed today because of inaction on those agreements (based on International Trade Commission estimates of the additional exports those agreements would bring and Commerce Department estimates of jobs related to trade).

How ironic that the reason for this is organized labor’s refusal to recognize they have been wrong on trade agreements and that our existing trade agreements have actually generated a manufactured goods trade surplus for America. What’s worse, as we have been dead in the water, our chief competitor, the European Union has been busy negotiating its own trade agreements with countries like Brazil, India, Canada, Vietnam, Singapore, etc. –- agreements that will wrap up markets for them and push us out.

President Obama is right in saying we have to double America’s exports in five years, but we can’t do that unless we open foreign markets to our goods and services. This year is the Chinese Year of the Tiger –- but for U.S. trade agreements, every one of the last three years has been The Year of the Snail. It’s time to come out of our shell and open new markets –- starting with those that were supposed to be approved because of the historic bipartisan agreement on trade three years ago.

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