August 02, 2005

The New Matsui Trade Position

Daniel Weintraub gets at some of the fundamentals of the current political climate affecting international trade in this column. He starts off noting that the widow of Rep. Bob Matsui, long the leading champion of free trade among the Democrats in the US House, voted against CAFTA, and that this is indicative of many DC Democrats becoming less and less willing to support free trade proposals in the last few years. Some of this has to do with what the new Rep. Matsui brings up in explaining her vote - concerns about the ability of the US to compete against other economies that have less stringent labor and environmental standards. But Weintraub argues that what's really driven an increase in opposition to free trade in the Democratic ranks is a growing uneasiness in the self perceptions of many American when it comes to the place of the US in the world economy.

It's tightly written column, and it's interesting to see that the author comes out so directly for free trade, noting how it can benefit workers overseas, and the standards that exist in those countries:

History has shown that countries strengthen their labor and environmental laws as they develop. That's what happened in the United States, even though nobody held a hammer over our heads. And the same thing will happen elsewhere as trade builds a viable working class that demands those changes. The process can be painfully slow, but refusing to trade more with these developing countries will do nothing to improve the condition of their people and land.

It's also interesting to see a columnist directly confront sovereignty concerns:

Matsui's comments sound sensible enough in the abstract. But what she is really talking about is impinging on the sovereignty of the other nations in the agreement, in a way that most citizens of the United States would never want to see happen here.

All in all, it's an unusually lucid, direct, and sensible newspaper column, even if it does seem to bode ill tidings for the future of international economic cooperation.

Posted by armand at August 2, 2005 11:41 AM | TrackBack | Posted to International Affairs

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