NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 21, 2008

By killing "fast track" procedures that guarantee a yes-or-no vote on trade agreements within 90 days, Democratic lawmakers in Washington have destroyed the credibility of the United States as a reliable trading partner, says C. Fred Bergsten, director of the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

The impact is much more profound than the scuttling of pending free trade agreements with Panama, Korea and Colombia, says Bergsten:

  • The United States has been effectively removed from any significant international trade negotiations for the foreseeable future.
  • Current and former chief trade officials of three of the world's largest trading entities have indicated that, since the House action, the U.S. has lost all credibility.
  • In other words, the "time out" proposed for trade policy by one of the major presidential candidates -- a central goal of the opponents of globalization -- has already been called.

The United States will suffer severe economic and foreign policy costs if the House action is permitted to stand.  Peterson Institute studies show that the U.S. economy is $1 trillion per year richer as a result of the trade liberalization of the past 60 years, and that America would gain another $500 billion per year if the world could move to totally free trade.

The European Union, and the large and dynamic economies of Asia, will now strike trade compacts among themselves that discriminate against America rather than do deals, says Bergsten.  The United States will lose billions of dollars worth of exports and the associated high-paying jobs -- just at a time when improvements in our trade balance, fortified by continuing growth abroad and a highly competitive dollar, are cushioning our slowdown.

Source: C. Fred Bergsten, "The Democrats' Dangerous Trade Games," Wall Street Journal, May 20, 2008.

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