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from The Great Debate:

Forging ahead with free trade

The recent focus on what divides world leaders, from Syria to the euro zone, has obscured the significant agreements reached at the Group of 20 meeting in St. Petersburg earlier this month. One of the most important was support for free trade and opposition to protectionism.

We can now build on this momentum, as well as other trade liberalization efforts, to achieve meaningful progress at the World Trade Organization ministerial meeting in Bali in December.

Though critics describe the G20 as ineffective, it has been key in fostering economic cooperation among the world's largest countries and helping to stave off the worst economic catastrophe since the Great Depression. With the economic stresses of the past five years potentially triggering protectionism, it's noteworthy that G20 members have steadfastly supported free trade.

In St. Petersburg, for example, G20 members agreed to freeze the introduction of trade protectionist measures until 2016. This was a major achievement that lays the groundwork for much-needed progress on the trade agenda.

from The Great Debate:

The public supports a transatlantic trade pact – for now

The long-discussed free trade agreement between the United States and the European Union was formally endorsed by President Barack Obama in his State of the Union address to Congress. Obama asserted that “trade that is fair and free across the Atlantic supports millions of good-paying American jobs.” A prominent presidential endorsement will not prevent a long and disputatious negotiation, but a trade pact could yield potentially huge economic rewards -- and also provoke serious political opposition on both sides.

A U.S.-EU trade and investment agreement has been talked about for two decades but never actively pursued. On both sides of the Atlantic, there has been fear that any such deal between the world’s two largest economies would disadvantage poorer nations. A U.S.-EU accord was deemed less desirable because greater economic benefits could be gained from a global trade agreement involving more countries. Trade experts worried that it would undermine the legitimacy of the World Trade Organization. Moreover, based on past bitter disputes over frozen chickens, bananas, genetically modified organisms and other food and agricultural products, a U.S.-European Union agreement was deemed too politically fraught and difficult.

from James Pethokoukis:

There’s supporting free trade, and then there’s being a sucker

When the country engaging in mercantilist-protectionist policies is also your banker, I guess you tend to look the other way. My fellow CNBC contributor Peter Navarro makes the devastating case:

For starters, we must puncture the myth that China's main manufacturing edge is solely its cheap labor. Indeed, while low labor costs are a factor, when you carefully research the biggest source of China's manufacturing advantage, it is actually a complex array of unfair trade practices, all of which are illegal under free-trade rules.

from Breakingviews:

Trade should leave China and India both winners

Decades of mistrust haven't stopped China and India's trade from tripling in the past five years. Now China wants to restart free trade talks when Premier Wen Jiabao visits New Delhi later this week. India has long resisted such an agreement. Yet more open trade should leave both sides winners.

Since the two countries warred over a border dispute in 1962, China and India have had a fractious relationship. But on some issues they agree. India helped China stop an agreement over climate change in Copenhagen that both felt was too soft on rich countries. Chinese and Indian state-owned firms have bid together for oil and gas assets.

from Rolfe Winkler:

Lunchtime Links 1-8

Bank regulators issue interest rate advisory (FFIEC) This may sound boring, but it's rather important. The FFIEC -- a collection of bank regulators including FDIC, OCC, the Fed, OTS and NCUA -- hasn't issued such a warning since 1996. It wants banks to make sure they can handle rising interest rates....which seems to me a HUGE disincentive to lend. 5% mortgages originated today will lose mucho value as rates go back up. This is a huge reason banks "aren't lending," because up is the only direction for rates to go!

Employers unexpectedly cut jobs in December (Mutikani, Reuters) The jobs report is an important catalyst for the dollar and gold. If the employment situation improves, it will be easier for the Fed to tighten (good for dollar, bad for gold). If unemployment stays high, the Fed will keep rates low indefinitely and likely keep printing money to buy assets (bad for dollar, good for gold).

from James Pethokoukis:

Obama, trade and the echoes of 1929

This is the most disturbing thing I have read in a while (via AP):

Trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama won't be put before Congress until it grapples first with President Barack Obama's pressing legislative goals, the U.S. commerce secretary said Friday. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said Obama has an ambitious high-priority legislative agenda focusing on health care, financial regulation and alternative energy. "Trade agreements are going to have to wait," he said at a luncheon hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore. "Right now, the administration is focused on a very aggressive and very tight legislative agenda."

Me: This sounds like Hillary's "time out" from free trade during the campaign.

from James Pethokoukis:

How Obama can earn that Nobel Peace Prize

The Nobel Committee in Norway says it awarded President Barack Obama the 2009 Peace Prize for "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples." (Congratulations, Mr. President.) In particular, the committee noted Obama's multilateral approach on the issues of climate chance and nuclear disarmament.

But where has the president been when it comes to using diplomacy and cooperation to promote global trade, which is essential to global peace and prosperity? Given the infamous role of protectionism in the Great Depression, it's no surprise that open and expanded trade has been at the core of the post-World War Two economic order, particularly during the past two decades.

from James Pethokoukis:

Robert Zoellick and the return of the Washington Consensus

If World Bank President Robert Zoellick were running a stealth campaign to become the next Republican Treasury Secretary, he might have given a speech very much like the one he just gave at Johns Hopkins University.

In it, Zoellick, who was nominated by President George W. Bush in 2007, advocated policies to reinforce the dollar, warned about rising protectionism and told the Obama administration that the core of its financial regulatory reform effort was wrongheaded.

from Commentaries:

Free-trade advocates need to get real

President Barack Obama's decision to impose safeguard tariffs on imported tyres from China has drawn predictable howls of outrage from economists, think tank staff and editorial writers -- none of whom has seen their job exported to China. It would be more constructive if they devoted the same effort to devising ways to compensate losers from globalisation in order to shore up waning public support for trade liberalisation.
Between 2000 and 2008, almost 4 million jobs were lost in U.S. manufacturing (22 percent of the total), many as the result of offshoring and increasing competition from lower-cost manufacturers in China and elsewhere in Asia.

Over the same period, the federal government provided just $1 billion per year in extended unemployment benefits and retraining under the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) programme. In the fiscal year ending September 2008, TAA helped fewer than 100,000 workers who had lost jobs as a result of changing trade patterns.

from The Great Debate UK:

First 100 Days: Obama and trade

[CROSSPOST blog: 44 post: 1429]

Original Post Text:
Sean West-- Sean West is a Comparative Analytics analyst at the political risk consulting firm Eurasia Group. The views expressed are his own. --

Fear that President Barack Obama will backslide on America’s free trade commitments is misplaced—in fact, he may eventually expand America’s commitment to liberalization. His pledge to revisit the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) amidst an economic slump was one of his most widely discussed policy positions of the campaign season.

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