No April Fool's: Dems Ask Bush to WTO-Bash RoW

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 4/01/2008 01:56:00 AM
Members of the US House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee are asking the Bush administration to whack practically every trading partner of the United States with threats of trade sanctions. To their "logic," things go like this:
  1. The US trade deficit is humongous;
  2. This massive deficit has much to do with everyone playing unfair in trade;
  3. The US Trade Representative (USTR) under Bush has brought only 3 cases a year to the WTO while the Clinton administration brought an average of 11 a year;
  4. To reduce the trade deficit, the USTR should bring a lot more cases against these trade villains.
As no big fan of the Bush administration, I can at least say that their stance on trade has not been excessively retrograde. It is sad to see that nothing much has changed as their complaints still single out the insularity of the Japanese auto market and the alleged undervaluation of the yen, never mind that it has fallen below 100 to the dollar. Maybe if American auto exports weren't of oversized gas guzzlers ill-suited for use in Japan and often left-hand drive to boot they'd have made some progress by now. Understandably, this congressional bellyaching is just for show as finding fault with everyone else is not exactly the path to improving US relations with the rest of the world now that it is held in contempt by so many. Actually, there are legitimate grievances together with a lot of nonsense mixed in with this laundry list of complaints. To the USTR's credit, it looks like it only goes after those it can realistically win.

Perhaps those Democrats would be better off doing more introspection about why US exports have lost competitiveness in many areas instead of bellyaching about how unfair everyone else is. Deal with it, America: world trade ain't for wusses and crybabies. If you don't make stuff the rest of the world wants, no amount of trade litigation will make them buy it from you. In fact, excessive belligerence would only make things worse. You can read the [pathetic] Ways and Means Commitee letter to Bush, and Reuters offers a summary:

Democratic lawmakers urged President George W. Bush on Friday to file new trade complaints against China, the European Union, Japan, Canada, Mexico and others at the World Trade Organization. "Unfortunately, during the last seven years, this administration has mismanaged America's trade policy. We urge you to take important steps to remedy this situation," House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel and other panel members said in a letter to Bush.

The lawmakers said the U.S. Trade Representative should begin preparing WTO cases against China and Japan for "currency manipulation" which they said undercuts U.S. exports. They also called for action against Chinese steel subsidies and Japanese regulatory and other non-tariff barriers that block imports of U.S. autos and auto parts.

The list also included a possible case against the European Union for blocking imports of high-tech goods such as digital signal converters for analog TVs. Trade officials have already said they are considering action on that. The lawmakers also proposed action against Mexico, Canada and France for failing to protect U.S. intellectual property rights and said Washington should insist Russia make much more progress in that area before being allowed to join the WTO. The letter was published shortly before the U.S. Trade Representative's office released its annual report to Congress on foreign trade barriers…

"We filed a number of very strong cases with the World Trade Organization to combat barriers to the free and fair trade of American goods and services, including four cases against China in the past 14 months," [the USTR] said in a statement.

But in what has also become an annual exercise, Democrats complained the administration has not insisted other countries live up to their international trade obligations. They said the Bush administration brought fewer than three WTO cases a year in its seven years in office compared to 11 a year from 1995 to 2001. One result, they said, was the rise in the U.S. trade deficit to $711.6 billion last year from $375.4 billion in 2000, former President Bill Clinton's last year in office.

Administration trade officials say they have filed cases at the WTO when other, quicker efforts to resolve disputes fail.