Monday, November 14, 2011

Lazy? Really, Dude?

At this weekend's APEC summit, President Obama explained to the audience why, in his humble (stop laughing) opinion, American international trade and investment efforts have lagged over the last few years:

For those of you too lazy to watch the full clip, the money quote from President Obama's answer on why US exports and investment have struggled is the following:
We’ve been a little bit lazy over the last couple of decades. We’ve kind of taken for granted — ‘Well, people would want to come here’ — and we aren’t out there hungry, selling America and trying to attract new businesses into America.
No, seriously.  That's what he said.

Now, I could start some typical Lincicomian (fake word) diatribe pointing out the little fact that the Obama administration had a unique opportunity in January to assert US leadership on global trade and finish the struggling, ten-year old (and now basically dead) Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations, the conclusion of which would have produced immense market access benefits for US exporters and investors.

Or I could point out that, during Obama's time in office, almost every country on the planet - including our biggest competitors in the EU, Canada and China - has pursued and implemented free trade agreements at a breakneck pace, while the White House's only unique bilateral or regional trade contribution was last weekend's announcement of the "broad outlines" of a Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement that was (a) actually started by the Bush administration and (b) originally supposed to be finished last week, rather than just, ahem, "outlined."

Or I could point out that Obama administration protectionism - in the form of "Buy American" provisions or the just-resolved ban on Mexican trucks or US tariffs on Chinese tires and chicken or trade remedies duties on key raw materials and other industrial inputs - has cost US exporters billions of dollars in lost export opportunities or increased production costs.

No, instead, I think that nothing hits home the ridiculousness and temerity of the President's accusations of American "laziness" in the international arena better than his almost-three-year delay of completed US trade deals with Panama, Colombia and Korea - deals that Obama himself sold to the American public as great export, investment and jobs vehicles, yet sat moldering in an Oval Office desk due to the President's political cowardice.  As I said in July when President Obama falsely accused Congress of preventing those deals from being completed "right now":
Actually, Mr. President, that could have been done in 2008, had then-Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) not rewritten the longstanding congressional-executive agreement on Trade Promotion Authority (and "fast track" before that) when President Bush tried to implement the US-Colombia FTA. 
And that could have been done in 2009, had you not shelved the FTAs in order to placate your party's protectionist wing. 
And that could have been done in 2010, had you not demanded that each one be renegotiated in order to further stall the agreements and to pay off powerful domestic constituencies. 
And that could have been done earlier this year, had you simply submitted the renegotiated FTAs' implementing legislation to a Republican-controlled House of Representatives that was literally begging for you to do so. 
And that even could have been done last week, had you not attached a "poison pill" to the US-Korea FTA in the form of an expensive and highly controversial Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) expansion that congressional Republicans had already voted down in February and had repeatedly warned would be deal-killer. 
And, despite all of this, Mr. President, you and Congress could still implement these FTAs right now if you would just submit clean FTA implementing legislation to the House and Senate pursuant to [Trade Promotion Authority].
Instead, it took three more months to finally push these slam-dunk trade deals through Congress, and they still won't enter into force for several more months.  Until they do, American exporters and investors remain at a disadvantage in key global markets vis a vis some of their stiffest foreign competition.

So, after explaining just how lazy we've been on global trade and investment, I'm sure the President wrapped up the APEC summit and got right back to work ensuring the rapid implementation of the Colombia, Panama and Korea FTAs, the completion of the TPP Agreement and the resuscitation of the Doha Round, right?

Yeah, umm, well:
President Barack Obama is playing golf this afternoon at the Mamala Bay golf course at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
And yet we're the lazy ones.

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