Happy “World Trade Week”…
I must admit to not having known that the U.S. Government officially salutes such a thing, ironically first proclaimed by FDR in 1933 during the depths of Depression-era mangled international commerce. For more on the May 19-23 festivities see:
Perhaps last week I was a bit preoccupied by the latest, distinctly unpromising developments on the free trade front, including:
• Presidential candidates who continue their race to the bottom to say as many negative things as possible about free trade agreements (FTAs);
• New, beneficial free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea that are being left to hang amidst poisonous Hill-Administration relations;
• Anti-Colombia FTA parliamentary maneuvers that have undermined the integrity of Presidential “fast track” negotiating authority, and our ability to ever negotiate another FTA;
• The uncelebrated recent first anniversary of the “May 10 Agreement”, when the Administration agreed to Hill majority demands regarding labor and environmental provisions. This should have cleared the way for bipartisan progress on FTAs, but all too many elected officials still apparently refuse to ever vote in favor.
• World Trade Organization negotiations that continue to go nowhere, with the latest Chairman’s negotiating text released just a few days ago gallingly repeating the exact same mealy-mouthed wording (not nearly ambitious enough for us, way too ambitious for others) as last time around.
• And Congress’ enthusiastic override of the President’s farm bill veto, further hurting the overall economic situation and undermining Washington’s free trade credibility.
Ironically, the breaking news on the ground (as well as by sea, air, rail or truck) is actually pretty encouraging. Generally speaking, the U.S. is doing a much better job of exporting these days, thank you very much, making a healthy dent in our legendary trade deficit.
To give one electroindustry example, during the first quarter of 2008 U.S. exports of NEMA-scope electrical equipment to nine new (ratified and not yet ratified) Latin American free trade agreement nations (to whom we are reaching out as part of joint initiative with the Commerce Department) were approximately $452,318,000, up from $342,980,000 and $313,524,000 during the same periods in 2007 and 2006 respectively.
Still, I attended this past Friday’s White House “World Trade Week” celebration with mixed feelings. Yes, the President said all the right things, but there was something about his somewhat disorganized presentation that had “lame duck” written all over it, both with regards to him and free trade in general.
05-27-2008 10:17 AM