The Great Debate UK

from The Great Debate:

First 100 Days: Obama and trade

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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.

The economy—and, notably, unemployment—has gotten far worse since Obama derived political benefit from making the rhetorical connection between trade and job loss. Obama could use the magic policy window of his first 100 days to push through controversial but politically plausible anti-free trade measures. He will not do so—and if he does not do it now, he is unlikely to revisit it later.

If Obama is ever going to pound away at NAFTA it would in coming weeks. He is pushing this month for a comprehensive approach to saving or creating up to 4 million jobs in two years. If there was any real desire to rework NAFTA because it was thought responsible for job loss, it would make sense to address it now.

from The Great Debate:

New messenger, same mandate

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Kevin P. Gallagher-- Kevin P. Gallagher is professor of international relations at Boston University and co-author of “The Enclave Economy: Foreign Investment and Sustainable Development in Mexico’s Silicon Valley” and “Putting Development First: The Importance of Policy Space at the WTO." The opinions expressed are his own. --

On the campaign trail, President-elect Barack Obama pledged to rethink U.S. trade policy.   The initial nomination of Xavier Becerra as United States Trade Representative was a signal that Obama will work to fulfill that promise. Congressman Becerra declined the offer and former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk has been chosen to head the office instead.  Given Kirk’s enthusiastic support for NAFTA, he will receive close scrutiny as he takes over a USTR that has the mandate of rethinking U.S. trade policy.

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