Free Trade On Deck

Former Rep. Bill Thomas (R-Calif.):

BillThomas.jpgThe long winter surrounding U.S. trade policy is starting to thaw. While this Congress and the administration have yet to do anything to actually liberalize trade, it has reappeared on the to-do list of lawmakers.

There is a lot of lost time to make up for, however, as it has been nearly four years since Trade Promotion Authority — something I believe every president deserves — expired and more than three years since Congress last acted on a trade agreement.

As the trade agenda returns to the headlines, it is important to remember that there is both good news and bad news in the world of U.S. trade. And the shorthand for the division between the two is the difference between policy and politics.

The first piece of good news is that we have in place the necessary processes for advancing our near-term trade agenda. First, the TPA, proposed by President George W. Bush and enacted by Congress in 2002, remains in effect for the Colombia, Panama and South Korea trade agreements that were signed before the TPA expired. It was a hard-fought Congressional battle, but the law requires that once the president submits a trade agreement to Congress, expedited procedures ensure that the bill is immediately introduced in the House and Senate, is not subject to amendment and is given Congressional consideration within 90 days.

The second piece of good news is that effective tools for resolving trade disputes are on the books as well. While these established dispute-resolution processes are reaffirmed by our pending agreements, long-standing U.S. statutes exist to address claims of dumping, export subsidies and other barriers to trade.

freetrade.jpgMoreover, these two fundamental elements of any good trade agenda — liberalization and dispute resolution — each reinforce the other. Using enforcement tools when necessary and appropriate builds confidence among nations that open markets will not be unfairly exploited by one party. And this confidence in turn can promote expanded trade and more trade liberalization.

While there has been no legislative action on the pending agreements, dispute resolution mechanisms are actively functioning, whether they are at the World Trade Organization or through domestic statutes. Recent rulings by the WTO with respect to the Boeing-Airbus cases are but one example. While the U.S. did not emerge unscathed from the most recent ruling, it is clear from a broader review of that fight that trade subsidies provided to Airbus dwarf those to Boeing and the U.S.

Another important case, just filed under domestic trade remedy laws by Whirlpool, alleges dumping of imported refrigerators in the U.S. market at prices below the manufacturers’ production cost. It is a serious allegation for two reasons.

First, dumping products into our market is a serious violation of U.S. trade laws and WTO rules, and those countries party to the WTO must live up to their trade practice obligations. That is true when the U.S. is at fault as well as when the fault lies with our trading partners. We must abide by our commitments, and we should fight to ensure others abide by theirs as well.

Second, the consequence of dumping is visited not only on U.S. shareholders but also on U.S. workers. Whether building airplanes or building refrigerators is in question, there are jobs in the United States at risk. Without the confidence that the cases can be adjudicated fairly and promptly, the political case for more bilateral, regional and multilateral agreements becomes more difficult. But if workers trust that expanded global trade will be beneficial to them as consumers and as producers, politicians can maintain their will.

Obama_South_Korea.jpgBut there is bad news as well. First, Congress is quite rusty when it comes to action to liberalize trade. One clear and explicit objective of ratifying eight free-trade agreements from 2001 to 2006 was to establish the value of repetitive actions for effective learning. Members of Congress learned by doing. But the lack of progress for more than three years has left the U.S. a laggard, not a leader, on the global stage.

The problem to solve is a political one. The opportunity for opening markets is here, the substantive policy work is complete and the legislative process for getting it done is in place, but the political commitment has yet to materialize.

Second, and more significant, is that peering forward beyond the euphoria surrounding the three pending agreements reveals that the future of our trade agenda is completely bleak. Not only are big deals such as European Union-South Korea near completion, but more than 100 trade agreements are being negotiated worldwide.

trade.jpgWithout a renewal of the TPA and a yet-unseen commitment by the administration to aggressively pursue open markets, we will only slip further behind other developed nations as a leader in trade liberalization.

While I’m encouraged by the near-term opportunities for trade deals this year, it simply isn’t enough. Buttressed by the knowledge that individual trade disputes can be addressed through existing mechanisms, we need to be vigorous in our pursuit of the broader free-trade agenda. That means first passing the pending trade agreements, then renewing the TPA.

Former Rep. Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) was chairman of the Ways and Means Committee from 2001 to 2007. He is a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. (Roll Call Guest Observer, 4/25)


59 thoughts on “Free Trade On Deck”

  1. woo hoo
    upon first sight i tho’t the thread’s title was “free tirade on dick” hmmm, must have been that rabbit pot pie leftover last night from easter.
    and speaking of on decks, hope our friend mqw is safe on the mighty mississippi… much mightier these flooded days. also wish well our other friends like patsi, ct, etc are safely out of harms way.
    faire, passover came a little late for you this spring…. am glad to hear you and yours were spared the storm.

  2. “…two fundamental elements of any good trade agenda — liberalization and dispute resolution — each reinforce the other. Using enforcement tools when necessary and appropriate builds confidence among nations that open markets will not be unfairly exploited by one party.”
    former critter thomas, sounds like congress is in dire need of something like a trade promotion authority to run itself.

  3. “…dumping products into our market is a serious violation of U.S. trade laws and WTO rules…”
    Laws v rules – US v the world – companies v a dwindling number of consumers (because they don’t have jobs to buy anything) – it’s a pickle.
    On happier note, cheers to the cappy hupple in London. (For a smile, check out the hats on Prince Andrew & Fergie’s daughters. Wow. Yikes.)

  4. Fairweather…. so glad to know you and yours are safe… I wish you and everyone in the area to keep safe…. and to those that didn’t fare as well, a speedy recovery…
    someone asked the other day about anyone on this blog living in Alabama…. someone who hasn’t been seen in a long time, Ivy Green, lives in that state…. hope she’s alright.
    and mqw… please take all the precautions you need to on that river…
    Blue…. I did watch a bit of the wedding on CNN….
    beautiful cathedral… beautiful music….
    I’m sure the Brits are thrilled to see the world making such a fuss over their monarchy once again.

  5. “Liberalizing Trade” = Let’s ship even more jobs overseas.
    This benefits the upper class and harms the middle and lower classes.
    No other nation in the world manages trade in the same stupid way that we do.

  6. May make you feel good, but will cost you more $$$.
    Gasoline with 15% ethanol, know as E15, burns hotter than standard fuel with 10% ethanol, and causes the catalytic converter to break down faster, replacing your catalytic converter will cost you @ $1,000, and E15 also delivers poorer mileage.

    “Bradley Manning Protest: White House Bans Journalist for Doing Journalism”
    “While there’s a bit of professional snobbery here, it is entirely justified. The White House bizarrely imagines it can manage Obama’s image by imposing rules on journalists it can’t impose on others. Not only does that not do a damn thing to prevent videos like this from getting out. It profoundly corrupts the role of journalists, imposing requirements that ensure they offer only a highly scripted and obviously false view of an event.
    It’s simply not fair to require that journalists not tell stories that are already out there in the public sphere. That turns them, once and for all, into stenographers. That’s not what our country needs from presidential press coverage.”

  8. TiR…why should burning ethanol make you feel good? Most objective studies I’ve seen indicate that it costs as much in terms of carbon emission to produce as it saves (or perhaps more) and it drives up food prices to boot. C-Bob, what’s the skinny?

    “A 2012 Paradox
    A tough job: Obama’s base is full of people seeking employment.
    The voters Obama will need the most were the voters most hurt in the recession.
    Now that President Obama has (presumably) dispatched the questions about his birthplace, the White House may have more time to focus on graver threats to his reelection.
    Like this paradox: Many of the groups that Obama needs to turn out most enthusiastically in 2012—particularly young people, African-Americans, and Latinos—are still suffering the most as the economy crawls back from the Great Recession. That dynamic looms like a crack in the foundation for Obama’s reelection, which relies on those groups surging to the polls in 2012 after their participation sagged even more than usual in the 2010 midterms.”

  10. I really appreciate fb from time to time- today I got to watch the wedding with Divalicious!

  11. I don’t think that Obama called out the media. I think he abetted their worst habit, which is dwelling on meaningless slop.
    Posted by: Author Profile Page | April 27, 2011 10:12 PM
    welcome and write on!

  12. TIR comes around with a little bit of info he/she has just learned –unfortunately it just proves the point the goopers are always the last to know anything useful

  13. Jamie- not imppressed with either- seems they have inherited their mother’s often awkward taste. A penny for your thoughts

  14. shit, ivy lives in Alabama?! Anyone been to Carols since the tornado? Hope she is alright.

  15. Thanks, Kathleen, Pat and Renee–we’re beginning to settle down a bit in our little area; my brother’s family still can’t go home because of a power outage that won’t be fixed until Monday, but otherwise cleanup’s ongoing (worried for a guy up at Mt. Vernon, a couple or three miles up Hwy. 68 toward Tellico, whose trailer is wrapped around a hillside; that’s about the closest really bad damage). I shudder to think what things are like elsewhere–esp. around Tuscaloosa and Ringgold, GA, another place very hard hit.
    Actually, in looking back over the past couple of days, I was reminded of another storm–

  16. Obama’s Free Market Competitiveness that international corporations understand, the race to the bottom of the barrel. A wage that is almost equal to slave labor ($130 a month). Sweat shops working 80 to 96 hours a week and the use of child labor. Factories with prison like conditions and working condition that can kill you. Companies are allowed to create environmental conditions that will harm or kill people and other living things. No regulations that will stop companies from producing products with cheap and dangerous materials that harm or kill other people, kids and pets.

  17. Stinky and I went to Westminster once–it was the year before the last royal wedding there. Walked inside and the first thing we met up with was a sign announcing that admission was being charged. I let loose a couple of zingers, did a 180, and headed out of town.

  18. Tony…
    Democrats should be able to win in 2012…birthers, destruction of Medicare, etc…
    In recent years I’ve become disillusioned to see my Democratic Party be so reluctant to fight the good fight.
    Whenever Obama or Harry Reid decide to so some standing up to the ridiculous Republican Party, my gut feeling is that the action is a political calculation and not sincerely standing up for what is right and just.
    This could be a big problem for Obama if the Republicans manage to be only slightly nuts during the campaign season.

  19. “do” some standing
    not “so” some standing
    If I were a doctor, I wouldn’t do surgery today. I stayed up to watch the wedding…

  20. A weak $$$, bad weather, tight supplies, war are pushing up prices of oil & gas, and here I thought it was all the fault of the speculators. Someone needs to inform this brilliant administration our cars don’t run by windmills, or solar power. But hey, filming the Oprah show, now that is important stuff. Maybe they’ll figure something out when gas hit $5 or more?

  21. C-Bob, what’s the skinny? –
    On paper Bio-fuels look good, but as with all things American these days it’s turned into welfare for Monsanto, Cargill, and Big Corn. Making fuel from algae is not the same as making it from food. We chose to make it from food.

  22. Former Rep. Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) was chairman of the Ways and Means Committee from 2001 to 2007. He is a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
    This could be the worst post ever on the Trail.

  23. Too bad the American Enterprise Institute, hasn’t out sourced it’s visiting fellows.

  24. Read this folks –
    The little known Old River Control Structures (bottom center), a frail line of defense between the raging Mississippi River (top) and a total dislocation of the US economy, by way of the Atchafalaya River (bottom).
    But the real threat posed by this historic, gathering flood may well lie several hundred miles to the south, where the Mississippi crosses the Louisiana border. There, as the Corps well knows but dare not discuss, this historic flood threatens to overwhelm one of the frailest defenses industrial humanity has offered to preserve its profits from the immutable processes of nature. This flood has the potential to be a mortal blow to the economy of the United States, and outside the Corp of Engineers virtually no one knows why.

  25. “He’s almost 50 years old and he’s president of the United States and I don’t think anybody would debate his intelligence and so now we need to get serious … let’s just get serious and get back to focusing on what’s important,” senior Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett said on The Joe Madison Show this morning.
    Intelligence? What points to that conclusion? What has he done that demonstrates his intelligence? Appearing on Oprah or The View? Gitmo? Unemployment? Oil prices? War? 911 terrorist trials? Spending? Obama’s apology tour? Beer-gate? Releasing his birth certificate? Middle East peace plan? Rising inflation: energy & food.. Fort Hood? Obama refusing to acknowledge there is a ‘war on terror’ by not referring to it as such? Obama saying there will be transparency and bi-partisanship in his administration? Cash for Clunkers? Bail out of GM? The list is rather long, and getting longer and there is no way he can make the list look like a stroke of brilliance before the 2012 elections.
    If no foreign country liked us under Bush, then what is equally true no foreign country respects us under Obama.
    Major promises made and broken, along with his screw-ups will look like minor blimps compare to what is heading our way.
    Just keeps moving up:

  26. (CNN) — A federal judge ruled Friday that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers may intentionally burst a Mississippi River levee in an effort to prevent the flooding of a town in Illinois.
    Judge Stephen N. Limbaugh Jr. in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, ruled that a 1928 law permitted the breach of the levee to ease pressure on the flood-engorged Mississippi River.
    About 100 families live in the floodway, which has not seen such use since 1937.

  27. cbob, regarding the order to breach the levee, would not it be cheaper to move the 100 families than to lose 100s of thousands of acres of food production plus wipe out somewhere down the river a few other economic necessities?

  28. patd
    the Army engineers have unintentionally created an environmental disaster with the building of many of those levees. Because the Mississippi can’t flow naturally with the movement of water and silt into the Delta whole habitats have been destroyed including the Everglades.
    Unfortunately, after those levees were built, people moved in and moving them out may be next to impossible particularly considering the current state of the real estate market.

  29. tir’s 9:28 ignores e85, a mixture that makes an expensive catalytic converters unnecessary.
    He should call himself ‘1/2 truth in reality’.

  30. Cajonjoe,
    The value of ethanol is that it doesn’t distort our foreign policy and domestic politics. It can keep our money out of the hands of terrorists and the koches.

  31. “Someone needs to inform this brilliant administration our cars don’t run by windmills, or solar power.” tir @ 3:15
    Here’s 1/2 truth, sticking up for 19th century technology again.
    If you don’t like the price of overpriced American gas, tir, no one is forcing you to buy it. You could stay home and let the hidden hand of the market manipulators provide a fair and balanced price. Or, you could move to Tibet and get a lot more mileage out of all your negative yakking.

  32. Apparently, Craig doesn’t want me commenting here. He’s holding my posts.

  33. Since my 1:42 sneaked through, maybe this by Taegan G about Trump’s lies regarding his avoidance of Viet Nam will also.

  34. Craig, did you go to the WHCD? Trump’s been invited by WaPo. What’s with that?

  35. Some extreme weather in Texas today (Friday) –
    97F ( A new daily record ) with SW winds at 45 mph gusting to 68 mph.
    We set 3 new high temp records in April , and booked the driest April on record here.

  36. NOAA has created a website for information on the tornado outbreak:
    April 27-28, 2011, tornado outbreak statistics
    NOAA’s preliminary estimate is that there were 211 tornadoes on April 27-28, 2011.
    •During the multi-day period of April 26-28, The National Weather Service (NWS) estimates there were a total of 288 tornadoes.
    •NWS issued outlooks five days in advance, watches hours in advance, and tornado warnings with an average lead time of 24 minutes. NWS issued warnings for more than 90 percent of these tornadoes.
    •The largest previous number of tornadoes on record in one event occurred from April 3-4, 1974, with 148 tornadoes. april_2011_tornado_information.html

  37. “keep our money out of the hands of terrorists and the koches”
    o-toole, good slogan; but the koch addiction might be be too strong to kick for the msm.
    clever also was your naming of half-truth.
    btw, o-toole, unless you played addled hockey with some posts that went unpublished, looks like not gracious host but ungainly e-snafus held up your tho’ts in the wee hours.

  38. o-toole…
    sometimes the site just automatically holds new commenters posts…. when Craig sees that is happening he’ll fix it for you.
    please don’t take it personally…. and please keep posting.

  39. sea, the siemens ad on the right above craig’s twittering reminded me of your don quixote days fighting the water windmills. have they gone up yet?

  40. good morning, renee. wedding hangover leftover question: was that gown recycled from an old movie? i swear i saw one just like it on e taylor once. kate’s fil being such a greenie made me wonder.

  41. patd…
    I’m the wrong person of which to ask that question. I did watch a bit of the wedding…. but as to all the particulars of dress, hats, and all that stuff…. it didn’t interest me.
    and good morning to you too…. it’s going to be a beautiful day here in the northeast.

  42. that retro gown was about the only thing that pulled my eye away from the tornado devastation photos yesterday. being that colin firth and wife wore recycled clothes to the oscars, i wondered if this was the beginning of a new uk fashion.
    tornado photos looked a lot like hurricane andrew recycled.

  43. patd… that’s interesting about colin… didn’t know that.
    I watched some of the wedding because my father was a huge history buff. If he were alive, he’d have insisted I watch history in the making.
    After I turned on the tele, I yelled at the heavens “see dad, I’m watching it… the cathedral is grand… the music is grand… and look at all the history of it!”
    I felt him smile.

  44. Well, TIR, since 2009 our government has been secretly supporting opposition groups in Syria. The Muslim Brotherhood split in Syria and we helped those who rejected the MB’s support of Hamas.
    Obama a walk in in 2012?
    1. Egypt
    a. opens to Gaza crossing and warns Israel who rejects illegal arms to Hamas to stop meddling in its internal affairs.
    b.Mubarak may face the death penalty
    c. Copts and Muslims minority groups now face increased violence
    d. Watch Lara Logan’s interview on 60 Minutes. I don’t think I heard one word here about her disgusting assault for 30 minutes by 200 to 300 people protesting in Tahrir Square.
    2. Qaddafi ain’t going anywhere fast and the French are now dropping concrete bombs as they are low on explosives. Numerous AQ links to rebels are now quite clear.
    3. Assad has Iranian security and Quds helping them murder Syrians. The hypocrisy here is so bad even the former Clinton spokesperson is disgusted at Obama’s double standard.
    4. Taliban launches their Summer Offensive
    5. Pakistan encourages Afghanistan to move towards China and reject the West. China continues to help Iran and their cargo ship is still held in Malaysia over illegal nuclear materials interdicted on the way to Iran.
    6. Hizb’Allah still holds Lebanon hostage and will bury the Tribunal’s report due out soon indicting them, Syria and Iran for the murder of Hariri.
    7. Turkey is embarrassed over the plight of their new BFOs Iran and Syria.
    8. Obama said he has never seen the destruction of the recent tornadoes. Did he see a few pictures of Japan?
    9. India, China and Russia proceed to work on Thorium technology as Obama HAS NO ENERGY PLAN
    10. Shuttle is almost over. We’ll have to depend on the Russians or Elon Musk
    11. Panetta to the Defense department is to manage to big cuts coming and Patraeus to the CIA to keep him from considering running for President (opinion).
    12. F-35 continues to flounder. China now has the J-10, J-15, J-17 and the stealth J-20 plus ship killer missiles designed to fit the J-20.
    13. Carter accuses America and South Korea from withholding food which he called a human rights abuse.
    14. GDP is shrinking and the economy is bracing for oil disruptions given the mess in the ME with more flames burning now in MENA and Africa.
    15. There is no real plan to control the deficit as the Dollar continues to sink without a strong uptick in US exports.
    16. My insurance premiums continue to rise.
    17. As predicted Gitmo isn’t closed and KSM will not be tried in NYC.
    18. New studies suggest China will overtake the US economy by 2016 as they continue to suppress human rights and block sanctions against Syria.
    Those were just a few issues facing Obama. Nothing here is surprising however. Many things over the last years have been very surprising to Obama. Perhaps the only thing he’s not surprised at is the feeble leadership of the Republicans……..

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