Free(ish) Trade

Glenn Reynolds notes John Kerry is “to some degree running against his own record” by railing against outsourcing after having mainly voted in favor of free trade. Matt Yglesias agrees but notes that Bush isn’t the model of consistency, either:

Based on Bush’s record we know that he will consistently speak out in favor of trade and consistently act so as to undermine it. Kerry, it seems, will say and do a mish-mash of things.

Alex Knapp reminds us that President Bush, while hardly pure on the issue of trade, has hardly been a disaster:

[U]nder Bush’s watch, the United States has eagerly pursued the FTAA and CAFTA, made a free trade agreement with Australia and Jordan, and is pursuing free trade agreements with many other countries. Additionally, it was under Bush’s watch that the United States pushed during WTO negotiations a complete elimination of industrial tariffs, successfully negotiated broader protections for intellectual property globally, and actually began negotiations to eliminate agricultural subsidies (although Europe’s refusal to do so made this a politically unsustainable position.)

Bush ain’t a perfect free trader, but he ain’t bad, either. Give credit where credit’s due. From a free trade perspective, I’d much rather have Bush at the helm than Kerry or Edwards.

I think that’s right although, in all honestly, I have trouble figuring out what Kerry’s position on trade is. And it may well change between the time he offically wraps up the nomination and November, anyway. Bush has essentially been a free trader with the glaring exception of the steel tariffs, which were not only unprincipled but done so hamhandedly that he didn’t even get the political benefits he’d hoped to gain.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Ravi Nanavati says:

    I would not call “broader protections for intellectual property globally” a positive thing.

    What that really means is writing the DMCA into our
    trade agreements so that even if a future Congress were not on the MPAA’s payroll they wouldn’t be in a position to change anything unless the corresponding administration could be convinced to negotiate changes to or pull out of these trade agreements.

    But, of course, Kerry’s position on all of this is no better…

  2. Bithead says:

    I’m having a problem deciding what Kerry’s position on about anything is, based on what he says.

    What he’s done for 20 years is another issue, and pushes me toward Mr. Bush.