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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Trade's Perfect Storm By William Reinsch
Trade's Perfect Storm
By William Reinsch

May 31, 2016
One thing that has become obvious in the presidential campaign is that trade is front and center as an issue. For those of us who have spent our professional careers working on the subject, this ought to be good news. Finally "our" issue is getting the attention it deserves. Unfortunately, this is a classic case of "be careful what you wish for." We are not having a high-minded debate about trade policy. Rather, we are down there in the gutter debating whether U.S. negotiators are stupid or just incompetent and whether trade agreements are really nothing more than a race to the bottom.

How did it come to this? It turns out we are experiencing the perfect storm of trade debates. First, on the Democratic side, this is nothing new. Trade has been a divisive issue among Democrats for some years. In 2008, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton spent weeks in the industrial heartland beating each other over the head on who was the bigger trade skeptic, egged on by organized labor. Once the nomination fight was over, the issue faded. The Republican nominee John McCain did not make a big issue of it, and Obama — having established his position — did not have to. This year has featured a replay between Clinton and Sanders, but unlike 2008, it is not likely to disappear after the conventions.

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