Sunday, March 02, 2008

There is no magic equation to build support for trade liberalization

In his Washington Post column,"Democrats Off course on Trade," at
Sebastian Mallaby argues that if the Democrats could be honest about trade's effect on jobs and link trade policies to wage insurance, all would be well.

I wrote to him that
share your dismay that the Democrats have become more critical of NAFTA and bilateral trade agreements. But I don’t think if we could provide wage and health insurance, we will have enough of a social compact to ensure support for trade liberalization. I think there is an additional problem, which stems from our failure to be honest about what trade agreements do. They no longer govern simply commercial policies; rather they govern many aspects of policies that were once solely the turf of domestic policymakers from procurement policies to health and safety standards. They are governance agreements (really global regulations) that facilitate trade and limit how and when policymakers can use domestic (and commercial policies) to distort trade. Thus, as you know, some Democrats truly believe that these governance agreements need to be linked to capacity building and strategies that bolster the demand abroad for good governance. Others take advantage of this rubric, but are really protectionist. I do not believe either Obama or Clinton are truly protectionist, but they need this groups support and these candidates remain fearful of being honest about what trade agreements do. If they were honest, they could make a better case for how globalization can be regulated so Americans of all class, education, etc.. can benefit.

Susan Ariel Aaronson, Ph.D.

Associate Research Professor,

Graduate School of Business and the Elliott School of International Affairs

George Washington University