Choosing the Right Tools for Economic Growth

Nina Easton, senior editor-at-large of Fortune, looks at the Administration’s efforts to revive the economy.

Talk to business leaders — the people who actually hire people — and you don’t hear worries that Washington is running out of tools. What you hear, pretty consistently, is that this White House stubbornly insists on reaching for the same wrong toolbox.

One policy from the right toolbox, she writes, is free trade.  Members of both parties support free trade policies, but that bipartisan accord has yet to break the stalemate on three pending trade agreements: Korea, Colombia and Panama.

“Overseas markets are ripe for American products,” says Jay Timmons, CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, who likes to repeat the mantra that 95% of customers are abroad.

The administration has given lip service to the importance of this fact — the President says he wants to double exports. But the only three free trade agreements now before Congress — with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama — have yet to move forward, trapped in negotiations over spending more money on trade adjustment assistance. According to the U.S. International Trade Commission, the South Korea deal alone would result in an estimated net increase in American exports of up to $4 billion in its first decade. No magic bullet, but nothing to sneeze at either.

Meanwhile, economies around the globe are forging deals with each other. As Timmons notes: “There are 120 free trade agreements being negotiated. We’re party to one. We’re getting our clocks cleaned.”

Easton goes on to highlight some of the NAM’s other concerns about U.S. policy, namely the corporate tax rate (the second highest in the world) and the high cost of doing business in the country.

Earlier: Timmons writes about the pending trade pacts in the Daily Caller.

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