A Year of Living Dangerously: Obama’s Record on Trade

daniellamarkheim /

In February 2009, President Obama revealed his trade policy agenda in the opening chapter of the 2009 Trade Policy Agenda and 2008 Annual Report. Short on substance, the agenda outlined many of the same broad ideas presented during his presidential campaign: enforcing trade rules and making trade “fairer” rather than freer. While the chapter did provide for America’s commitment to the World Trade Organization, moving forward with at least one of the three pending U.S. free trade agreements awaiting congressional approval and keeping any new climate legislation consistent with America’s international trade obligations, these general objectives lacked the details needed to restore confidence that America would continue to set the standard for liberal international trade policy, or remain a responsible leader of the global economy.

The President promised a more thorough review America’s trade policy over the first half of 2009 and a new road map for U.S. trade relations this summer – a promise that remains unfulfilled as his first year as president comes to a close. Lacking the Administration’s willingness to detail a comprehensive and transparent trade agenda, the nation’s trade regime is instead being shaped and undermined by a slow and steady creep of protectionism in Congressional legislation and in ad hoc measures designed to cater to special interests. (more…)