The U.S. International Trade Commission (Commission) estimates that U.S. economic welfare, as defined by total public and private consumption, would increase by about $2.6 billion annually by 2015 if the United States unilaterally ended (“liberalized”) all significant restraints quantified in this report. Exports would expand by $9.0 billion and imports by $11.5 billion. These changes would result from removing import barriers in the following sectors: sugar, ethanol, canned tuna, dairy products, tobacco, textiles and apparel, and other high-tariff manufacturing sectors.Now, a few billion dollars here and there is certainly not going to save the $15 trillion US economy, but it still isn't chump change and, unlike other government "stimulus" unilateral liberalization involves no new government spending (and thus no new Solyndras!). Moreover, there is simply no justification for the artificially high prices on basic manufacturing inputs and consumer necessities (especially food, clothing and footwear) that American businesses and families must pay in order to subsidize the well-connected American industries that produce these artificially expensive products. None.
And let's not forget about that sweet, sweet $9 billion in new exports. As we all know, the Obama administration is desperately trying to push export expansion as part of its US economic recovery plan. For example, just yesterday on ABC's "This Week" Austan Goolsbee, the former chair of Obama's Council of Economic Advisers, said that the United States needs to "refocus" its economic strategy by looking to exports and investment. So, considering the ITC's repeated findings, I guess the White House is busily readying legislation to eliminate existing US import taxes on sugar, ethanol, canned tuna, dairy products, tobacco, textiles and apparel, ball bearings and other manufacturing sectors, right?
Unfortunately, no. In fact, they've repeatedly pursued the exact opposite approach, erecting, rather than eliminating, US obstacles to imports. Off the top of my head, they've raised tariffs on things like tires and chicken; they've proposed new trade remedies rules (twice) that would almost invariably lead to increased duties on a wide range of imports; they still haven't allowed Mexican trucks on US roads; they've repeatedly embraced "Buy American" procurement policies; and they've even negotiated higher tariffs on cars and trucks as part of the US-Korea FTA. So the next time you hear an administration official talk about increasing US exports, be sure to remember that $9 billion worth of exports (and the American jobs that go with them) voluntarily sitting on the sidelines.
And then tell that official to call the ITC asap.