August 10, 2013


What's the Trade Deal? (IRWIN M. STELZER, 8/10/13, Weekly Standard)

The biggest plus for the President's negotiators is that they can tell the trade unions, liberal Democrats' most potent supporters and usually skeptical of freer trade, that this would be the first trade deal with a region that has higher labor and energy costs than the United States, and is therefore unlikely to cost jobs, and might actually create some. 

But the biggest barrier to a U.S. sign-on is the President's demand that any agreement exclude the financial sector. Banks generally favor freer trade, but their special enthusiasm for this deal stems from its promise of harmonizing the regulations under which they do business in the U.S. and the EU. It is precisely that prospect that arouses the Obama's suspicion: he fears harmonization would allow backdoor repeal of portions of the Dodd-Frank law that Democrats see as necessary to prevent a repeat of the post-Lehman Brothers turmoil in financial markets. Bankers' enthusiasm for regulatory harmonization might wane if they use their summer vacations to consider whether the application to them of EU restrictions on bankers' bonuses might make the price of mansion rentals in the Hamptons next summer a bit beyond their reach.

Bankers are not alone in seeing themselves as winners. Auto manufacturers would benefit significantly from the increased economies of scale that would result from agreement to eliminate NTBs that are the equivalent of a 26 percent tariff, according to data provided by Jeffrey Werner, a Daimler executive. A single set of safety standards, eliminating the need to build vehicles with flashing brake lights to meet EU requirements, and cars with steadily shining ones to meet requirements in this country, is one example of such saving. And then there are America's farmers, who would in the aggregate benefit from freer competition, but some of whom will resist the loss of their generous subsidies, and reside in states with important political clout--think Iowa, corn, and the first presidential primaries. Of course, it may never come to that, since agriculture is one of the land mines on which trade negotiators avoid stepping by leaving that sector out of many trade agreements.

Posted by at August 10, 2013 5:42 AM

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