Monday, May 10, 2010

Monday Quick Hits

A few noteworthy things on this busy Monday:
  • Apparently, the United States' position in the TPP negotiations is lactose intolerant.  In a new Washington Times op-ed, Cato's Sallie James notes some rather distressing statements from USTR Ron Kirk indicating that the US could support significant restrictions on dairy imports as part of the new Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.  If USTR does indeed pursue such negotiated protectionism, it's further proof that free traders just shouldn't get too excited about the TPP negotiations.
  • China's trade balance continues to thwart American currency hawks' simplistic talking points about the RMB's undervaluation.  In March, China reported its first trade deficit in years.  Today we find that China shifted back to a trade surplus in April, but it was a whopping 87% smaller than April 2009, and the Jan-April 2010 surplus was 79 percent smaller than January-April 2009.  As the linked Bloomberg article correctly states, these data "may ease pressure for gains in the yuan and support Premier Wen Jiabao’s argument that the currency isn’t undervalued."  Bloomberg also hits on something that AEI's Phil Levy said last week:  "The sovereign-debt crisis in Europe that today prompted a loan package of almost $1 trillion to help nations under attack from speculators may also encourage Chinese officials to delay ending the yuan’s peg to the dollar."  Somehow I doubt, however, that the currency hawks care about such facts or will be revising their statements accordingly.
  • United States' new man in Geneva: "For those of you hoping for the quick completion of a Doha Round Agreement, just stop."  The new US ambassador to the WTO, Michael Punke, told reporters today that there can be no "quick fix" to end the deadlock in the World Trade Organization's long-running Doha Round talks.  Of course, we all knew that already because such resolution requires American political will that's been missing since 2008, but it's good to know that Punke's not getting any crazy ideas about, you know, actually completing an ambitious, economically-beneficial multilateral agreement anytime soon.  Whew!
  • Bi-partisan Senate support for KORUS FTA is nice, but....  The AFP reports that Sens. John Kerry (D-MA) and Richard Lugar (R-IN) sent a letter to President Obama calling om him "to submit a long-delayed free trade agreement with South Korea to Congress for approval."  The letter "urged Obama to work with lawmakers to end feuds over beef and automobiles that have held up the pact.  'Submission of the agreement to Congress also would be considered a significant show of solidarity with a close and reliable ally,'  they said in a letter dated Friday, calling for action 'as soon as possible.'"  Kerry is the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Lugar its ranking member.  Their letter is available here.  Hey, do you think that North Korea might just have something to do with the Senators' KORUS letter?  (Obvious answer: Yes.)  Do you think that it'll change KORUS' near-term outlook in Congress?  (Obvious answer: No.)
  • Ways & Means GOP to Dems: "Hey, do you guys remember the bi-partisan deal we all signed way back in 2006 that was supposed to pave the way for congressional passage of pending FTAs?  No?  Well, we do."  The Ways & Means Republicans celebrated the third anniversary of the 2006 "bi-partisan trade deal" by releasing a report "showing the harm suffered by American agriculture due to a failure to move forward on pending trade agreements."  The report is available here.  No word on whether the GOP press release and report were accompanied by a sugary cake and three candles.  (But I'm guessing that they were not.)
  • A nice (long) summary of European climate change and carbon tariff developments and next steps.  Feel the excitement!
That's all for tonight, folks.

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