President Obama today made believe he is devoted to trade, declaring a list of minor accomplishments while forgetting his ignorance of the major items on what should be his trade agenda.
It’s been commonly understood around Washington that the president doesn’t have a trade policy.
Now Obama, after a year and a half in office, has finally noticed the Korea free trade deal, which was negotiated by Bush. He says he wants Congress to approve it. There are also Bush-finished trade deals with Colombia and Peru in the queue, still waiting for some presidential love.
Obama’s issue with trade, beyond his own ideology, is that the unions are threatened by trade deals and oppose them because they invite exports that underprice U.S. companies that have to pay high union wages. Labor is concerned about the deals’ effects on international workers’ rights, but that’s a side issue which is generally put front and center because it makes better PR.
And the election of Barack Obama was brought to you by savvily spent union dues.
So Obama can’t afford to anger the unions, who are already sore that they are not getting a “card check” bill from him and Congress. The measure would have forced unionization votes to be held publicly. Labor officials are also mad that they were bulldozed by the White House into accepting a tax in the health reform law on the expensive health plans they negotiated for their members.
But with the economy still in the dump, the president does not want to be open to charges that he’s slacking on trade, a vital component of growth.
So he took to the East Room today to offer up some window dressing, including that he got China – the world’s largest producer of delicious spare ribs – to buy some U.S. pork, and Russia to finally take our chickens.
And he named 18 business leaders to a “presidential council on business exports.” Putting 18 Type A personalities with competing interests in a room together is a sure recipe for getting absolutely nothing done, of course.
And BTW, the Commerce Department, Obama announced, has conducted 18 trade junkets – I’m sorry, “missions” – to 24 countries. I myself would like to announce at this time that I will be conducting a trade mission the the Maryland shore in August.