Bush on Trade

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 10/12/2007 03:28:00 PM
President Bush is gearing up for a speech on trade. His warm-up act consisted of talking to the Wall Street Journal on trade and other economic issues such as the falling dollar, the Strategic Economic Dialogue with China, and the CFIUS review process. Here are a few key excerpts from the interview dealing with trade on the importance of exports to the US economy, "fear of trade," bilateral trade deals, and the state of the WTO Doha Round. (There is also a summary of the interview online):

BUSH (intro): One of the reasons why our economy is stronger today is because of exports. Exports are a key component of economic growth in the year 2007. And tomorrow I'll be giving a speech on trade. I think it's very important for our country to open up markets for U.S. goods and services. It's important for producers and farmers and manufacturers to be able to have a level playing field in which to compete. I also believe it's important for our consumers that they have additional choices in the marketplace.

And so therefore, I will remind people the benefits of trade for our economy; I'll recognize that there is some fear of trade because of potential job dislocations; I will explain my strong support for trade adjustment assistance, coupled with a robust community college program to make sure people have the skills necessary to be able to work in jobs that exist; I'll call upon Congress to pass the trade agreements that we negotiated -- Peru, Colombia, Panama and South Korea; I will assure the audience that we will continue to work for a successful Doha Round, because I believe it's in this country's interest to be treated fairly around the world when it comes to trade and I believe it's in the interests of America to help people rise out of poverty. And people who look at the studies that have been conducted, the best way to help poor countries become wealthier and to give people in poor countries a chance to succeed is through trade and opportunity and commerce. So that's what I'm going to be doing in Miami tomorrow.

WSJ: You talked about the fear of trade. You know, we did this poll -- "we," the Wall Street Journal and NBC did a poll a couple of weeks ago, Republicans only, and found a result that we thought was pretty surprising: six in 10 said they thought free trade in the global economy had overall been bad for the U.S. -- Republicans. How do you get the Republican Party back to where you think it ought to be pointed on free trade and globalization?

BUSH: I am concerned about isolationism and protectionism in both parties. One of the concerns I talked about in the State of the Union was that this country has got to make sure that we don't isolate ourselves or try to wall ourselves off from the world. I'm cognizant of the fact that the United States has been through these trends in the past. We have lost sight of what it means to be a nation willing to be aggressive in the world and spread freedom or deal with disease. And we have lost our confidence in the ability to compete internationally.

So the reason I put those topics in the State of the Union was to -- it's a part of a sustained strategy to keep reminding people of the benefits of trade and the benefits of helping people become free. So we got a lot of work to do. Listen, one of the reasons why people are concerned about trade is because they're worried about their job. That's why it's very important for me and others who believe in trade to remind people of some certain facts. One, there's a lot of high-paying jobs as a result of trade. In other words, if you're in an industry that is selling goods and services overseas, you're making pretty good money. Two, that open investment enables people to work here in America. I remember going down to that plant in Mississippi and seeing the automobile plants down there that have enabled people to have good jobs and end up with 401(k) savings accounts for the first time in their lives.

As I mentioned, the recent GDP numbers -- the growth in our economy as reflected in the recent GDP numbers is -- you know, a key component of that growth is exports. In other words, exports create jobs; we've just got to keep reminding people of that over and over again.

But no question protectionism and isolationism are active here in America and those of us who are free traders have got a lot of work to do. That's why I'm giving a speech tomorrow, and I just want to keep reminding people of the benefits of trade.

WSJ: But are you prepared to put some more money on the table to get Peru, Colombia, Panama, South Korea [bilateral deals] done this year?

BUSH: These trade agreements need to stand on their own. Of course we'll work with Congress on trade adjustment. But I also want to make it clear that the benefits of the trade agreements stand on their own.

And what are those benefits? Well, if you really look at the fine print on these agreements, you know, a lot of goods coming from the countries you mentioned come into our country duty-free -- or with fewer duties -- than goods and services produced in America go into their countries. And it makes eminent sense for us to be treated the same. And we're going to push hard for these agreements because I think they're in the country's interest. It's in the interests of the working people. It just provides more opportunities for jobs.

And I repeat to you, one of the interesting benefits of free trade is that our consumers have more choices. I believe consumers benefit when they have additional choices to make. I believe that one of the reasons why we've had lower inflation is because consumers have had more choices. If you eliminate consumers' choice, it's more likely to cause there to be inflationary pressures. If supply outstrips demand, it's -- there's a -- that helps ease inflationary pressure.

No questions this is a tough debate. But the interesting thing about this is that we have had this debate throughout our history. And I will remind people that the country was very isolationist and very protectionist in the 1920s. And some would argue that high tariffs, not only in America but around the world, was one of the key triggers for a Great Depression. And no question, America tried to isolate itself from the troubles in Europe, and then were drawn into bloody conflict. And the job of the President is to have a philosophy that is good for the people, and articulate it, sell it, and work hard to -- and work hard to make sure people understand the benefits of trade, in this case.

WSJ: What's your strategy from here to get it [a Doha deal]--to get it across--

BUSH: The strategy is to continue to support Ambassador Sue Schwab's efforts to work with countries, such as Brazil and India, for them to open up their markets for manufacturing goods, and at the same time work with Europe on agricultural goods, and show flexibility. I feel confident we can still get a deal. This is a very complex task to reach an accord amongst a lot of nations. Having said that, I've spoken to a lot of the world leaders on this subject, and they are committed to getting a deal. And if there is a commitment -- in other words, if people realize the mutual benefits of completing a Doha Round, then I'm optimistic.

We have shown flexibility. We have shown, through a variety of ways, that we're willing to come down on agricultural subsidies. But we expect there to be reciprocity in the process. And Sue is out there working very hard and doing a fine job.

WSJ: Can I follow up, Mr. President? Do you think that there is a role, though, in your conversations -- your own, for yourself -- in perhaps leading negotiations? You had six years in negotiations where the trade ministers have been doing the talking, and I just wondered if there's a point in which --

BUSH: I think there's an appropriate time, when enough cards are on the table, for the leaders to go try to reach a conclusion. That time is not now. But I do -- let me just make sure you understand. I spend a fair amount of time in discussions with President Lula. I met with him at the U.N. I met with him at Crawford. I spent a fair amount of time in discussions with Angela Merkel. I've called Prime Minister Singh several times on the subject. In others words, I am engaged. And there may be an appropriate time for leaders to come together. My hope is, of course, that the trade representatives are able to conclude the deal.