Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Is America Still The World's Free Trade Leader?

Well, it sure doesn't look like it.  According to Reuters yesterday, some of the United States' biggest trading partners have grown tired of waiting for the Obama Administration to complete its much-delayed review of US trade policy, and publicly warned that any further delay could harm the global free trade agenda.  Here's the unsurprising-yet-still-depressing news:
The European Union and Brazil will put pressure on the United States Tuesday to set out its demands to conclude the Doha round of world trade talks in 2010 to boost dwindling world trade, a draft document showed.

The draft communique prepared for an EU-Brazil summit on Tuesday and obtained by Reuters, said a commitment by the world's leading and developing economies to reach a deal next year "will be at risk" unless progress, such as the United States revealing its demands, is made soon.

"Brazil and the EU believe that closure of the Doha Round in 2010 should take place on the basis of progress already made, including with regards to modalities, and therefore call on WTO Members to set out any specific demands they may have," the draft said.

"The EU and Brazil underline that absent progress within this timeframe, the objective of closing the Round in 2010 will be at risk."

The EU and Brazil also called for trade ministers to meet to specifically discuss progress on Doha before a scheduled full WTO conference in Geneva in December.
Translation: "Dear United States, Please get your act together asap.  Your senseless foot-dragging is jeopardizing the near-term completion of the Doha Round, and the billions of dollars of benefits that it could provide the ailing global economy.  Seriously, man.  Pick it up.  Best regards, the EU and Brazil." 

Me: Ugh.

In April, I opined that that the President's inaction on trade was putting "60 years of US leadership on free trade... in jeopardy."  The administration remained silent.

In July, Dan Ikenson and I again cautioned about the harms caused by the administration's failure to enact a pro-trade agenda.  Were were joined by a growing chorus of concerned citizens, newspapers and trading partners, and yet the administration's silence continued.

Now it's October, and still nothing.  But America's trading partners are finally fed up with the stonewalling, and they're openly making plans to advance the Doha Round with or without the United States' input.  Their patience, it appears, has worn out.  So unless something changes quickly inside the White House, 60-plus years of American trade leadership will have abruptly come to an end, and the first year of American also-ran status will have quietly begun.

And no one in the administration can ever claim that he wasn't warned.  Repeatedly.

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