The Biden administration’s new trade policy report is filled with laudable goals like defeating COVID-19, providing relief to American families, and the Build Back Better initiative. But should these goals be the basis of US trade policy or negotiating position with other countries? Are our economic competitors entering trade negotiations with the United States with similar globalist goals or are their goals self-serving national economic goals?
Here is an example of an American trade policy aimed at changing the world instead of focusing only on protecting American economic interests – American workers, manufacturers and others who have fallen on hard times lately.
“The President’s trade agenda will restore U.S. global leadership on critical issues like tackling exploitative working conditions, corruption, and discrimination against women and minorities around the world,” indicates the report. These are important initiatives. But there are ways to achieve them without introducing trade goals that are misaligned with US national economic interests.
Tariffs and sanctions work, but our new trade policy does not highlight them because they run counter to another trade policy goal: crowdsourcing cooperation among friends and allies around the world. Recent history reminds us that before the pandemic, few countries were assisting the United States in its efforts to establish more reciprocity with our trading partner China. “The Biden administration will coordinate with friends and allies to pressure the Chinese government to end its unfair trade practices and hold China accountable,” the report noted.
Putting teeth into trade negotiations sometimes requires unilateral action, especially if our “friends and allies” have economic, political, and security interests that do not match those of the United States. To rely on others in this regard is to revert to the inadequate trade policy of the past. Even old.
Another item on the trade agenda that distracts from the needs of American workers is a review of existing trade programs and “their contribution to equitable economic development (of other countries), including whether they reduce wage gaps, increase worker unionization and promote safe workplaces.
One way that has been done in the past is to offer cash grants. The other is to give other countries unfettered access to US markets in exchange for “fair” policies. As we have seen over the past few decades, providing special trade access to our market to advance nation-building “goals” directly competes with American workers and, while helping others, distracts whose attention we should help first.
Do not mistake yourself. The trade policy program for 2021 contains good elements. But given global economic stress, and especially the needs of American workers and businesses, is not focusing on directly protecting those interests the best approach? Read the document here: bit.ly/tradeplan21 and let me know your views.