Both Candidates Are Full of It on Trade
So About that Faux-Protectionism
Dan Drezner expresses confidence that the United States will continue actively expanding our network of free trade agreements, be the next president Barack Obama or Mitt Romney.
Now, surely, you must think, whoever wins the election will affect the status of these agreements. Except that I don't. All of these deals are being negotiated by the Obama administration, so I think we can assume that the prsident has signed off on them. If Mitt Romney wins, I don't see him rejecting any of these agreements. If anything, he'll try to add to them. More free trade deals is part of his five point plan to create 12 million jobs that will be created regardless of who is president. Intriguingly, when he's mentioned this plank in the last few debates, he mentions Latin America in particular. A shameless play for the Hispanic vote? Maybe, but I don't care.
Furthermore, regardless of who wins Congress, these are the kinds of deals that still fall under that shrinking category of "doable in a reasonably bipartisan fashion." If Romney wins I can see the Democrats in the Senate playing a bit more hardball -- but most of these deals would likely go through.
A United States that is both willing and able to sign more economic agreements is a good thing for the country -- oh, and it's a good thing for my argument that, contrary to expectations, global economic governance is doing a pretty decent job.
But you certainly wouldn't know this if you were even a decently informed voter.
If you just tuned in for the debates, you'd swear this was 1992 redux:
And, of course, this touching display of protectionism:
I suggest visiting Ramesh Ponnuru's takedown of the protectionism of both candidates. It was written prior to the third debate, which makes it all the more prescient and valuable for understanding what the candidates actually mean when they bluff about being tough with China (whatever that means.)
Drezner's almost certainly correct that we'll be seeing more free trade agreements under the next president, and that international reality will dicate more pragmatism from our economic management.
I'm less confident that either man will have the gumption and savvy to sell what free trade deals mean for middle and working class Americans: a lift to the aggregate economy and cheaper goods for all, but the bulk of the proceeds trickling up to the wealthiest Americans. I'd call it a good deal for all, but it certainly takes a salesman to deliver the pitch.