NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

IS KERRY PROTECTIONIST OR FREE-TRADER?

September 15, 2004

In his campaign rhetoric, Democratic strategists believe presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) must act like a protectionist, while at the same time giving subtle hints that trade would become freer under his leadership.

But economist Jagdish Bhagwati says Kerry may have trouble reconciling platform promises that cater to labor unions with the interests of U.S. trading partners, who are slated to continue meeting at the Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations through 2005. For example:

  • Kerry has lashed out at outsourcing of services and direct foreign investment.
  • He has committed to a 120-day review of existing trade agreements.
  • And he has demanded that labor and environmental requirements be added to old and new trade agreements.

Bhagwati remarks that while smaller trade partners will roll over and accept almost any conditions in exchange for preferential access to the U.S. market, this will not happen with larger developing countries.

Nations with larger economies, such as India or Brazil, will recognize the protectionist hand of lobbies behind the demands for labor and certain environmental requirements, and thus will refuse to accept additional trade restrictions.

Source: Jagdish Bhagwati, "Muddled and Maddening," Wall Street Journal, September 13, 2004.

For WSJ text http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB109502966063915798-search,00.html

 

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