Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Obamanomics not to include free trade 

As I warned last spring, it was hard to tell President-elect Obama's positions on trade policy. Aside the NAFTA dance, we did not see much interest in the subject from him. I found Dan Tarullo's answers in the WSJ online debate on trade uninformative. And in the October 15 debate with McCain, all you got from Obama was Bill Clinton's rhetoric from the 1992 campaign before Ross Perot pushed Clinton into a free trader.

So it has to come as no surprise that the pick for U.S. Trade Representative got passed over by Obama's first choice.
Rep. Xavier Becerra has decided not to accept Barack Obama's offer to be United States Trade Representative, according to an interview the California Democrat gave to the editorial board of La Opinion, a Spanish-language newspaper in Los Angeles.

Becerra said, "My concern was how much weight this position [U.S. Trade Representative] would have and I came to the conclusion that it would not be priority No. 1, and perhaps, not even priority No. 2 or 3."
Maybe it will take another Perot to push Obama into the arms of free trade. Barring that, the Columbia Free Trade Agreement is probably dead. And Canada can't be too happy with incoming Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack.

On the other hand, Becerra now regrets his vote in favor of NAFTA. So while the Obama team may not advance the cause of free trade, they might be distracted enough to not do it too much damage.

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