Who Will Challenge Obama's U.S. Trade Policy?

Article excerpt

Byline: Alan Tonelson, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Campaign 2012's most fateful decision could be made shortly, not by Sarah Palin or Jeb Bush or any other Republican A-listers contemplating a run but by Thaddeus McCotter. Unless Donald Trump resurfaces politically, the fifth-term Republican congressman from Michigan looks like the last reasonable chance that U.S. trade policy will be challenged or seriously mentioned during the new but rapidly intensifying presidential cycle.

Trade and broader strategies for the global economy aren't indisputably America's biggest policy disasters. Plenty of competition for that title has been generated by the nation's recession-plagued, debt-strapped, domestically polarized and militarily overextended condition. Still, these economic globalization policies deserve special emphasis.

First, although they represent some of the best opportunities for achieving debt-free growth and job creation, signs of failure keep mounting. Despite a weakened dollar, deficits that actually keep slowing recovery and boosting the national debt are rebounding. Despite many free-trade agreements, foreign trade barriers are on the rise, too, according to two leading international organizations. And an all-carrots China policy has by all accounts produced a People's Republic of China (PRC) that's increasingly closed economically and truculent geopolitically.

Second, these globalization policies keep enabling investors, businesses and consumers to nullify the effects of even the worthiest recovery proposals. Whether on the tax, spending, or regulatory fronts, the worldwide pick-and-choose opportunities deliberately created by trade and investment liberalization enable too many of the benefits of stimulus measures to leak overseas. No wonder the loosest monetary policies and the biggest budget deficits in modern peacetime American history have yielded such feeble growth and so few jobs.

Third and worst of all, Washington's bipartisan determination to stay the trade policy course, and even push new deals that repeat old mistakes, is helping to re-create the same kinds of global imbalances that collapsed into crisis and recession just four years ago.

Unless Mr. McCotter or someone similar declares, however, count on these failures and dangers to be ignored by the 2012 presidential contenders. Certainly President Obama won't raise them. The avowed scourge of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 2008 has turned into the strongest White House supporter of the trade policy status quo since George W. …