Smack! Trade, Defense & Multilateralism

Ronald Brownstein has a great column (annoying registration required, use ‘laexaminer’/’laexaminer’) in today’s L.A. Times that points out the teeeny-tiny crack in the logic of many of the Democratic candidates. Unilateral action on national security = inherently BAD. Unilateral action on protecting jobs and the environment = inherently GOOD.

Uh, guys…

Democrats Give Belligerence a Chance When it Comes to Trade

If there’s one point of agreement among all of the Democratic presidential candidates, it’s that President Bush has unnecessarily alienated the world with an approach to international security that is “arrogant,” “bullying” and “belligerent.”

Here’s former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, in a speech in Iowa in February, describing Bush’s foreign policy: “I believe that the president too often employs a reckless, go-it-alone approach that drives us away from some of our longest-standing and most important allies, when what we need is to pull the world community together in common action.”

Now here’s Dean, back in Iowa in August, telling a union audience how he would convince America’s trading partners to adopt labor and environmental laws as stringent as those in the United States: “How am I going to get this passed?” Dean asked. “We are the biggest economy in the world; we don’t have to participate in [the North American Free Trade Agreement] and we don’t have to participate in the [World Trade Organization]. If we don’t, it falls apart.”

Mr. Pot, meet Mr. Kettle.

Now I’m guilty as well of arguing that some level of international consensus is necessary to win the current war while also arguing that we need a relatively free hand to manage our economy. This is a hand smacked against the forehead to remind me that the two are inextricably linked.

Any Democratic president, given the prominence of organized labor in the party, will push harder than Bush for reform in developing countries that provide their producers an unfair cost advantage by allowing them to pollute the environment or exploit their workers. To a point, that emphasis benefits workers in America and around the world.

But promises from several Democrats to impose punitive tariffs on countries that don’t meet our expectations in their labor and environmental laws … much less Dean’s pledge to use trade talks to pressure every nation on the globe to match U.S. standards on those fronts … are a recipe for endless conflict.

If the Democrats really intend to take more account than Bush of the world’s opinion, they will have to demonstrate it not just on questions of war and peace, where their most ardent partisans want the whole world to hold hands. They’ll also have to prove it on the trade disputes where their base is clamoring for the cudgels.

It has to be more than a matter of whose ox is … as they say … Gored.

8 thoughts on “Smack! Trade, Defense & Multilateralism”

  1. No concensus is required to win the current war. Just a level of acceptance of results.

    Once the Iraqi economy gets back to pre-National Socialist levels many will want to do business with Iraq.

    The Democrats have no long term plan that will actually save jobs. Forcing American companies to use the high cost supplier (if the supplier is American) will cost the economy jobs in the long run.

    The Bush steel tarriffs are a perfect example of what protectionism does. It saves some jobs at the expense of many others.

    Change is painful. No change is death. Choose.

  2. On Venezuela: Chavez is quickly learning from his political sensei Fidel Castro. First, despise the Americans, call them fascists, imperialists, and terrorists. http://www.babalublog.com/archives/000139.html

    Then, any internal opposition must be quashed, thus further dividing the country. Divide and conquer.

    On Brazil: I don’t think calling Lula a capitalist is correct. Lula is an opportunist. Plain and simple. To make deals with the Castro regime, even after almost every other country of world organization has condemned the Human Rights violations of the Cuban government, proves Lula is self-serving.

  3. You are comparing apples and oranges – world security and economics. World unity is necessary for peace and the nations should circle the wagons against terrorists. But, the efforts of NAFTA and WTO are actually designed to pit nations against each other. Mostly because those organizations benefit only select populations.

  4. You are comparing apples and oranges – world security and economics. World unity is necessary for peace and the nations should circle the wagons against terrorists. But, the efforts of NAFTA and WTO are actually designed to pit nations against each other. Mostly because those organizations benefit only select populations.

  5. Kevin,

    Pitting nations against each other is one of the reasons that commodity prices have been in decline for over 200 years.

    Hard on producers. A good deal for consumers.

    Capitalists are constantly striving to lower their prices and raise quality. It is how they get a competitive advantage.

    It is also how consumers get a better life for the same amount of work.

  6. Kevin, it’s Howard Dean and the base of the Democratic Party that, by favoring protectionism, want to favor narrow interests (small groups of Americans, wealthier than most of the world) over broader ones. (Everyone else, including the vast majority of Americans.)

  7. John, I disagree. I actually have very mixed feelings on protectionism, but I think that a large number of Americans, most of whom are not at all wealthy, are out of work as a result of companies, whose CEO’s usually are wealthy, sending their jobs overseas. I have friends whose parents have been laid off when their factory was moved out of the country. These are ordinary people, not some narrow interest group.

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